First Nations people are overrepresented among the homeless population across Canada.
First Nations are 23 times as likely to experience homelessness compared to non‑Indigenous people.
The cost of building and renovating high-quality housing in First Nations is $60B+ by 2030.
The limited funding available is a concern for First Nations addressing homelessness within their communities.
National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy
The National First Nations Housing and Related Infrastructure Strategy (Strategy) is a historical milestone for First Nations housing. It pursues First Nations self-determination of governance and delivery systems that sustain quality, appropriate, healthy, and safe housing. It was developed through a Joint Working Group with representatives from AFN, Chiefs Committee on Housing and Infrastructure, Indigenous Services Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Employment and Social Development Canada.
The Strategy was preceded by the Policy Reform Framework, co-developed by First Nations and Canada, which serves as the foundation for housing and related infrastructure reform. The Strategy is based on a 10-year Implementation Plan that intends to achieve innovative housing governance systems that support First Nations housing and related infrastructure.
The Strategy aims to:
- Ensure First Nations perspectives, Aboriginal and Treaty rights are recognized and respected.
- Implement AFN Resolutions on the transfer of authority and long-term approaches advancing the First Nations care, control, and management of housing to address the needs of First Nations members wherever they live.
- Build on previous feedback.
The Strategy has four themes:
- Governance and Delivery: New systems, institutions, and ways to deliver housing services to First Nations people. A First Nations Housing and Related Infrastructure Policy and Research Centre will gather and provide First Nations with important housing information, tools, best practices, and innovative First Nations approaches to housing.
- Funding and Financing: New financial instruments and additional government funding.
- Skills and Capacity: Investments in skills and capacity, with the flexibility to direct the use of funding.
- First Nations Information Sessions: Responsiveness to where individual First Nations reside along the transfer of authority continuum in housing and infrastructure.
Cost Analysis of Gaps and Future Housing Needs
Since the completion of AFN’s landmark “Cost Analysis of Current Housing Gaps and Future Housing Needs in First Nations” by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy (IFSD) in 2021, AFN has been advocating for significant funds to meet current housing needs and to close the housing gap.
Through this research, AFN identified a need for $60 billion by 2040, which includes $44 billion for current needs and $16 billion for future needs, to bring First Nations housing up to par with the standard of housing that most Canadians experience. This cost estimate will be updated in Fall 2022 to reflect inflation and First Nations population growth. Estimates were partly based on data obtained through AFN’s First Nations On-Reserve Housing and Related Infrastructure Needs study.
Federal investments in First Nations housing and infrastructure must span 25 to 30 years or beyond so that First Nations may adequately plan for the large capital investments required in housing and community infrastructure. AFN continues to advocate for immediate, adequate, and sustained investments for First Nations to advance transformative change and to assume jurisdiction over housing and related infrastructure.
AFN is also advocating that additional housing must be matched by improved community infrastructure. TheHousing and Homelessness Sector is working closely with the AFN Infrastructure Sector on a major initiative to Close the Infrastructure Gap by 2030.
National Homelessness Action Plan
In 2019, First Nations-in-Assembly passed Resolution 79/2019, “Action Plan for First Nations Homelessness On and Off-Reserve.” This resolution mandates that AFN develop a national First Nations homelessness strategy in alignment with the National First Nations Housing and Related Infrastructure Strategy. A distinctions-based approach to addressing First Nations homelessness focuses on the specific ways in which homelessness impacts First Nations living both on and away from their communities. This includes, for example, conditions of overcrowding and inadequate housing that result in “hidden homelessness” within First Nations communities.
A National First Nations Homelessness Action Plan (Action Plan) aims to improve and/or reform the delivery of federal government programs and related social and fiscal mechanisms to address First Nations homelessness. It aims to reduce, prevent, and ultimately eliminate First Nations homelessness while transitioning First Nations housing and related infrastructure to First Nations care. It also seeks to establish mechanisms to allow First Nations to exercise jurisdiction and control over the delivery of homelessness services in order to care for their citizens no matter where they live.
Funding under Canada’s Homelessness Strategy
Among other goals, the National First Nations Homelessness Action Plan seeks to ensure federal homelessness funding is responsive to First Nations needs and priorities. AFN and the Homelessness Policy Directorate at Infrastructure Canada have established a Joint Technical Working Group to guide a process informing the development of the First Nations distinctions-based funding stream of Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.
Research on First Nations Homelessness
AFN has commissioned research projects to better understand how homelessness impacts First Nations. Findings help to fill information gaps related to First Nations homelessness and identify opportunities to advocate for resources and improve partnerships, service delivery, and coordination. A research summary and fact sheet on these findings related to First Nations homelessness are also available.
To date, the following research projects have been completed:
- A systematic literature review of First Nations homelessness on and off reserve, including First Nations understandings and experiences of homelessness;
- An environmental scan of programs, services, and related systems that support First Nations individuals experiencing homelessness; and
- A systems map of help services, helplines, benefits, and social programs available to First Nations individuals at risk of/experiencing homelessness or a lack of housing options on and off-reserve.
Federal Government’s Urban, Rural and Northern Housing Strategy
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is seeking Indigenous peoples’ input to develop an Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing (URN) Strategy. The AFN, along with the active involvement of its regions, is working with CMHC to develop a plan to seek First Nations input to be completed no later than June 2023. CMHC has agreed that First Nations will be engaged in a process exclusive to First Nations and that the final URN Strategy document will have a separate section exclusive to First Nations.
The National First Nations Housing and Related infrastructure Strategy recognizes that First Nations want to develop the capacity to be able to provide housing services to all their citizens no matter where they live in Canada. Federal Budget 2022 announced $300 million to fund initiatives associated with the URN Strategy.
The AFN is advocating the full respect and recognition of jurisdiction over housing on behalf of First Nations whose citizens make up the vast majority of Indigenous people who live in urban, rural and northern areas of Canada. AFN’s advocacy includes pressing for AFN co-development of the URN Strategy and any Memorandum to Cabinet on the subject. The AFN also continues to build and develop relationships and networks with urban and rural Indigenous housing and homelessness service providers to ensure that First Nations living away from their communities have equal access to housing.
Support for Dene Nation Housing Transition
The Housing and Homelessness Sector provides support for Dene Nation in their transition to care and control of housing and related infrastructure. Dene Nation has a unique situation where the Federal Government has largely devolved its fiduciary obligation to the Government of the Northwest Territories to provide the Dene people with housing.
Government Transparency and Accountability on First Nations Housing
The Housing and Homelessness Sector supports Chiefs in advocating for increased transparency from the Federal Government and involving First Nations in changes to its First Nations housing and related infrastructure policies, programs, and activities. Resolution 80/2019 refers to events in 2019 where renovation program funding by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation was significantly reduced and the Federal Deep Dive on First Nations Housing On Reserves Report (July 2019) was launched, both without prior knowledge of First Nations.
Resolution 80/2019 calls upon the Federal Government to commit to full transparency at the outset of any initiative or program decision affecting First Nations. It urges the Federal Government to co-develop measures with AFN to remove barriers from its housing and related infrastructure programs. The Housing and Homelessness Sector continues to develop measures to assess transparency performance by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Indigenous Services Canada, and support Chiefs’ advocacy to remove program barriers.
The Assembly of First Nations is committed to making all our digital sites and products accessible for people living with disabilities. We are continually improving the user experience for everyone while applying relevant accessibility standards: we strive to meet or exceed the W3C’s WCAG 2.1 Level AA for all our digital offerings.
AFN Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse Presses Urgent Action at Meeting With Federal, Provincial, Territorial Ministers of Housing
We support transformational change in housing to provide a better quality of life for First Nations.There is a tremendous housing gap in First Nations communities, and First Nations people experience more homelessness than many other populations in Canada. The Assembly…