A New Era in Indigenous Housing
15 Jun 2023
A new era has begun with the announcement by Jeff Loucks, CEO of the National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Incorporated (NICHI), and the Minister of Indigenous Services, Patty Hajdu earmarking $281.5 million to NICHI to address the critical need for safe and affordable urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing projects. An additional $4 billion was set aside in the 2023-24 budget over seven years.
The urgent, unmet need for adequate and affordable housing for Indigenous Peoples in urban, rural and northern areas has been growing as long as colonialism has existed. The consequences are dire: people cannot access higher education, escape domestic violence, or access shelters. Families fragment, youth are marginalized, and elders are separated from their way of life. As of this month – fittingly, Indigenous History Month – immediate action is on the way.
But this is no overnight success. NICHI was preceded in 2013 with the formation of the CHRA Indigenous Caucus, made up of determined housing providers who recognized that solutions could only be found with a For Indigenous, By Indigenous (FIBI) approach. This means those with lived experiences of colonialism and insights on a healing culture best know how to serve and respond to the needs of rural and urban First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples to help them thrive. Working together, they galvanized to sensitively address their communities’ needs to preserve and strengthen their culture while creating safe environments. These service providers across the country formally incorporated as NICHI (National Indigenous Collective Housing Inc.) in December ’22.
The CHRA Indigenous Housing Caucus (IHC) Working Group developed the FIBI National Housing Strategy – which became central to the government funding for NICHI – between 2017-2019 for urban, rural and northern parts of Canada. The foundation of the Strategy is the creation of a FIBI National Housing Centre (FIBI Centre). This Indigenous designed, owned, and operated FIBI Centre will provide a wrap-around, service-based approach to meeting the affordable housing and service needs of Indigenous families and individuals where they are at. The FIBI Centre will be a hub between service providers across all regions, assisting in the creation of critical local and provincial government collaborations as well as connecting to federal initiatives such as the National Housing Strategy.
Supporting Indigenous peoples living in urban, rural and northern communities, helps them to access affordable housing and housing providers. In doing so, they gain access to technical assistance, tools, research, and resources to build capacity.
With the implementation of the FIBI National Housing Strategy and the FIBI Centre, many goals and recommendations outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada Calls to Action, the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) and the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) can be fulfilled – a new era in self-determination. Canada’s housing policy landscape over the last few years has seen some exciting changes and this represents more to come. Collaborations take many forms, and some haven’t begun yet. But with hearts and minds now committed to solutions that place Indigenous experts at the centre of solutions, there’s reason for optimism.
So now the real work begins. Within a few short months, NICHI will take shape operationally. A non-partisan selection committee of non-housing providers will be struck, an expression of interest and allocation process will be developed. A process will be put in place that ensures the initial $281.5 is distributed equitably throughout all regions of the country. All proposals will be accepted with a priority to work with groups who can mobilize funding quickly. Check back on the NICHI website for the regional reps who can explain the model and process for funding.
This post was written by Lynn Warburton, Communications Lead, National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Incorporated.