The Georgia Straight | Sept 29, 2023
Eric Wilson, EIT, B.Eng, MASc, PhD Candidate | Liaison, Indigenous Projects

Canada is in a housing crisis. It is a challenge relevant to many Canadians across the country but is of particular significance to Indigenous Nations, where decades of destructive government housing and land policy have aided in the creation of widespread poverty.

The research is clear: housing is a key contributor to one’s health, wealth, and overall wellbeing. Inadequate housing reaches into every aspect of life, undermining the very foundations of health, education, employment, and social wellbeing in many Indigenous communities.

In 2009, the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health discussed health inequities and the social determinants of health. It was clear that there was a conundrum of affordability, social policy and practice, systemic racism, and landlord/owner privilege that often prevented Indigenous peoples from accessing appropriate housing—whether they lived within the limitations of on-reserve policy or off-reserve affordable supply.

In 2015, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples reported that the housing crisis had worsened on reserves. The existing housing stock in many communities is in deplorable condition. While First Nations have started taking responsibility for housing construction in recent decades, there is often a lack of recognition of the need to employ trained individuals for on-reserve housing departments. Limited administrative support is typically available for a housing administrator, but there are often insufficient resources for planning, repairs, maintenance, renovations, or new builds. The housing supply is 15 to 20 years behind the demand, and many First Nation communities are currently facing the brunt of the crisis.

The British Columbia Assembly of First Nations estimated an on-reserve housing shortage of about 175,000 units, with many existing units requiring significant repairs or replacement. In 2021, statistics revealed that 37.4 per cent of First Nations people were living in dwellings in need of major repairs, compared to 5.7 per cent of the non-Indigenous population. Additionally, 21.4 per cent of First Nations people were living in crowded homes.

Read Publication Back to Published Items