Embarking on the journey to own a home on reserve is a dream for many First Nation communities and its members, but the road is filled with challenges. From understanding the housing system to finding the right information, it can feel like a maze. But it is possible. Learn how the First Nations Market Housing Fund is transforming the game to make the dream of on-reserve homeownership a reality.
This past year, the Fund has embarked on a transformative journey, undergoing a comprehensive reform to strengthen the link between homeownership and First Nation communities. Since its inception in 2008, The Fund has worked with 41% of all First Nations in Canada. Yet, many First Nations are still unaware of the Fund and the services it offers.
The Fund’s goal is to increase the number of First Nation members who become homeowners in their own communities. We are committed to empowering First Nations through enhanced policies, dedicated staff, and redefined priorities, as enhancing the ability of First Nation individuals to access homeownership is crucial to bridging the gap between on reserve and off reserve housing.
First Nations prosperity through homeownership
That is our vision. Homeownership extends beyond providing shelter; it represents an opportunity for individuals and communities to achieve financial independence and foster long-term prosperity. First Nations have a vested interest in encouraging and supporting its members to embrace homeownership. Among other housing options, homeownership will enable a First Nation to attract and retain a skilled workforce, as well as rendering it more attractive to members wishing to return to their home community.
However, it is a simple fact that housing development requires housing infrastructure. This is an area that we are well-versed in, as the Fund has supported numerous infrastructure initiatives within its Capacity Development program. A few examples of projects that we have supported include Land Use Plans, Land Allotment Policies, Lot Surveys, Land Codes, Comprehensive Community Plans, and Zoning Bylaws.
Ultimately, the need to promote homeownership in First Nation communities is strong, as proven in the results of a recent national survey. The respondents’ answers have compelled the Fund to make the following changes:
Re-focus the Fund’s efforts
The Credit Enhancement (CE) program, in which the Fund provides a backstop guarantee of 10% on a First Nation guarantee on an on-reserve housing loan, has been stagnant. As such, participation in the CE program will no longer be required as the Fund prioritizes its focus on First Nation Homeownership.
Enhance resources on homeownership
Prospective homeowners have demonstrated a strong interest in getting more information on the pathways to homeownership, compelling the Fund to conduct research on the impact of Capacity Development initiatives on First Nation homeownership. Paired with a new communications strategy launched in early 2023, the Fund is aiming to improve its effectiveness at communicating key pieces of information to prospective homeowners.
Develop new products and services
Credit Enhancement and Capacity Development have been the two products offered by the Fund since 2008. Needs and support services have evolved since then, requiring the Fund to follow suit. This has resulted in new initiatives being piloted over the past year, aimed at finding ways to improve the Fund’s impact on facilitating on-reserve homeownership.
Examples include implementing a program enabling the Fund to work with all lenders (beyond those interested in the CE program), providing post-program support for stalled homeownership projects, working with alternative financing initiatives that don’t require First Nation guarantees, developing a toolkit with resources on pathways to homeownership, and supporting the development of educational tools for First Nation housing professionals through the First Nations Housing Professionals Association.
Although well-intentioned, the current Indenture of Trust restricts the types of products and services that the Fund can offer. The Fund’s Board of Trustees are working with the CMHC to amend its Indenture of Trust and to fully transfer the mandate and accountability of the Fund to First Nations care and control.
Building a bright legacy
Throughout our reformative journey, we simultaneously redefine our priorities to align with the aspirations and needs of Indigenous communities. We are committed to amplifying Indigenous voices, ensuring that our policies and initiatives reflect cultural values and traditions. Through the power of homeownership, we can break free from government funding dependencies and create self-sustaining economies. As more First Nations embrace market-based housing, we witness the profound impact it has on individuals, families, and communities.
Our dedicated staff, united through a shared passion for Indigenous empowerment, work to provide comprehensive support to eligible First Nations. We offer tailored guidance and resources, equipping communities with the knowledge needed to navigate market-based housing. From governance frameworks to financial management, we strive to build capacity and long-term sustainability.
Ready to be part of this change? Visit www.fnmhf.ca to explore the initiatives firsthand and subscribe to our quarterly newsletter, Foundations, for updates on how we're building a future where on-reserve homeownership becomes a reality. Join us in creating a legacy of empowerment, prosperity, and self-determination for all First Nations.