Ottawa launches new Indigenous housing fund

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The federal government on Thursday launched a program providing $36 million to build "more effective, sustainable" homes in Canada's Indigenous communities.

The competitive program will select up to 24 applicants, each of which will receive up to $350,000 in first-stage financial support to develop their ideas.

$30 million in construction funding will then be split between 15 to 24 of those ideas, which will receive up to $2 million each.

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The deadline to apply is August 1, 2019.

To qualify, the federal government said you need to be:

  • of First Nation, Inuit, or Métis Nation heritage;
  • representatives of First Nation, Inuit, or Métis Nation government; or
  • Indigenous representatives of a First Nation, Inuit, or Métis Nation- owned and operated private or not-for-profit entity.

The money is to be used for "innovative housing ideas in Indigenous communities." Ottawa said applications would be assessed using six focus areas:

  • traditional First Nation, Inuit or Métis Nation building styles and techniques;
  • using the home for empowerment, capacity building, and support for local businesses;
  • support for vulnerable populations;
  • culturally-inspired urban spaces for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Nation people;
  • safety, security, and accessibility; and
  • energy independence and efficiency.

Ottawa expects the resulting projects to run from 2020 to 2023.

Improving Indigenous housing across Canada has long been identified as a federal priority. On Thursday, the Liberal government suggested it had invested "more than $2.5 billion in housing investments in Indigenous communities since 2016."

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More: Visit the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative website

However, in many northern communities, the quality of much available housing remains low.

For example, a 2017 Senate committee report stated: "The lack of suitable and affordable housing is a major concern in Canada’s northernmost locales, leading to serious health and safety concerns like tuberculosis, mental health problems, and respiratory infections."

In announcing its new program, dubbed the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative, the federal government did not indicate if the North could expect a specific share of the eventual investment.

However, Terry Audla – president and chief executive of the Nunavut Housing Corporation – is one of six people on an Indigenous steering committee appointed to lead the program.