Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With one in six Indigenous people living in overcrowded housing, the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) wanted to do something to help. So, its Métis Capital Housing Corporation (MCHC) is bringing back housing supports that were put on hold for a time due to lack of federal funds being released.
The 2021 Statistics Canada census revealed that many Métis live in inadequate housing, with approximately one in 12 (7.9 per cent, or 49,565 people) living in crowded housing not suitable for the number of people living there. Additionally, approximately one in 10 (10 per cent, or 62,640 people) were living in a dwelling in need of major repairs.
“Overcrowding is a huge issue in Indigenous housing,” said MNA’s senior director of operations Bindu Bonneau. “The reports from the 2021 census showed that Indigenous households are more prone to overcrowding and also they are three times more prone to live in housing that is not adequate, like dwellings that need huge or significant repairs.”
“So yes, there is a need for funding to help them repair those homes and to be ready for the winter season. It’s so hard to live in a house where you have a leaky roof. You can’t keep your home warm enough if your walls and roof are not secure enough or are leaking. So these types of repairs are covered in our program and citizens will be able to access this funding and get these repairs done.”
Housing supports for Métis citizens are available in several key areas, including down payment assistance, home repairs assistance, rental supplements, and student rental supplements. Mortgage assistance is also a new offering this year. This initiative comes under MCHC’s mandate to provide affordable housing to low- and moderate-income Métis families in Alberta.
For Métis Albertans who make $150,000 or less, MCHC can offer up to a five per cent down payment on the purchase of a home to a maximum of $20,000. Those making $150,000 or less can receive up to $20,000 for repairs to cover the costs of home repairs and renovations. Those who have experienced a loss of income resulting in a 50 per cent or more decrease in monthly net income may be eligible for mortgage assistance, receiving up to $5,000 paid directly to the lender.
When it comes to rental properties Métis Albertans can receive up to $5,400 per year towards rent and up to $850 towards a rental deposit. Students who are enrolled in full-time studies can register to receive up to $200 per month towards rent and up to $850 towards a deposit.
“Housing comes first and then we put other resources in place. For example, food, clothing, and education. All of these things are a necessity, but housing comes first. If you don’t have a safe and secure place to go, you cannot think about any other thing,” Bonneau says.
A 10-year, $500 million investment was announced in the 2018 federal budget for the Métis Nation. Bonneau says the first installment came in 2019 and they received money for the first three years, but were waiting a long time for the fourth year.
“We opened this program in 2019 for the first time and then we started dispersing the funds to Métis citizens based on their eligibility and we used up all those funds,” Bonneau says. “Then we were waiting for the federal government to release the next batch of funding. That’s why we are bringing back these programs now because we have received a second batch of funding from the government.”
The programs were able to support just over 1,600 people with the last round of funding and MNA is expecting to support a similar number of people with this batch of funding, and hopefully even closer to 2,500 if possible.
Since 2019, the Home Repair Program has served 543 households, the Down Payment Assistance Program has served 426 households, Student Rental Supplement Program has served 75 students and the Rental Supplement Program has served 571 households.
“We have about 56,000 registered Métis in Alberta now and supporting only 1,600 is like a drop in a bucket, so I think it is really important for these programs to remain sustainable and long term. It cannot be a five-year or 10-year plan. It has to be ongoing just like essential infrastructure,” Bonneau says. “We need to know what is going to happen after these 10 years and be able to provide that confidence and reliability to our citizens as well.”
Interested Albertan Métis citizens can find an application at https://albertametis.com/.