Manitoba community taking advantage of federal program to build houses

Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais
APTN National News
A Manitoba Chief is working on a plan with the First Nations Market Housing Fund to build 25 new homes in his community and on a neighbouring urban reserve.

Chief Dennis Meeches said the Long Plain First Nation is one of the fastest growing reserves in Manitoba and the need for housing is urgent.

“The demand for homes on First Nation communities is huge,” said Meeches. “There’s no way we can offset that demand, so we have to find new ways of looking at building homes”.

The plan is to utilize dollars through the First Nations Market Housing Fund, a program created nearly a decade ago that provides working families access to affordable mortgages in order to own homes on
First Nation land.

“We have to look at First Nation housing differently. We’re trying to put the onus on our people to take home ownership and be responsible for their homes and have legal title to the homes,” he said.

Meeches said he hopes to build 25 houses in total under the fund both on the Long Plain First Nation and on Long Plain’s Urban Reserve in Portage La Prairie a few kilometres away.

The $300 million fund was created by the Harper government in 2008 in hopes of putting a dent in Canada’s First Nation housing crisis.

The idea was to build 25, 000 homes by 2018, but there have been significant delays.

In May 2015 only 99 houses were built under the fund.

Similar initiatives in the past have proven devastating to some communities when mortgage payments fell through, but Meeches says he’s prepared.

“We cannot allow housing to drive us into third party management,” said Meeches. “I think there’s going to be some trial and error in that, but at the same time we have no choice because we don’t want to
leave that type of challenges for our children and grandchildren.”

Meeches said revenue from the community’s numerous economic development projects will allow for some insurance to protect investments.

Meeches is hopeful construction will begin this summer.

Long Plain will hold two information sessions for band members on Thursday March 2, 2017 in Long Plain and Portage La Prairie.

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