More than bricks and mortar

The Winnipeg Real Estate Board-established Housing Opportunity Partnership has shown the positive value of injecting significant new dollars into a targeted area for housing renewal. Its central focus of homeownership in the West End has helped to bring stability to the area, although homeownership alone will not work without being complemented by other key components that address a neighbourhood’s economic and social well-being.  

Stronger neighbourhoods offer an improved quality of life and an opportunity for residents who have invested in homeownership to build equity. It also increases the city’s tax base through increasing property assessments. Thus, there is more incentive to by government to reinvestment in community facilities. 

For example, in the West End — where so much good has occurred through housing renewal efforts — there are now some major public dollars being allocated to a significant upgrade of the area’s recreation complex at Sargent Park Pool and Recplex.

On a national level, there is a recognition that housing is important to addressing one of our most pressing issues across the country, which is the ongoing challenge of providing aboriginal people with better opportunities to become fully engaged in the economic opportunities Canada offers. 

How do we effectively address some of their long standing and entrenched social issues so they can benefit from becoming gainfully employed and being properly sheltered?  

The Canadian Real Estate Association (is taking a leadership role in this direction as part of an International Housing Coalition. The coalition met recently at the World Urban Forum in Vancouver. At the forum, CREA released a discussion paper on aboriginal housing issues in Canada. It is one area CREA considers a black mark on Canada’s otherwise “enviable housing record.” 

In its report,CREA said aboriginal housing is seriously deficient on- and off-reserve and action toi turnaround this deficit is now required. 

The following is an article released by CREA on the response it received from aboriginals and other participants on its discussion paper at the World Urban Forum.

Native housing multi-layered issue

The issue of native housing in Canada will not be solved by simply building new, or more units, but by a package of initiatives that address complex social issues. 

That was the message from panelists and participants at the aboriginal housing session at the World Urban Forum, organized to discuss a report on aboriginal housing published by the Canadian Real Estate Association. 

The report was one of 12 housing studies prepared for the International Housing Coalition. CREA is a founding member of the coalition. 

“Any new legislation or program created to address native housing issues must not simply say housing for aboriginals must be affordable. It’s not affordable when the people have no income. It’s just more than just building housing,” one participant noted. 

David Seymour, director of the National Aboriginal Housing Association said there would be several factors required to make any initiative a success, including a local economy that would provide aboriginals with income to “get on the housing ladder.” 

“There must be people capital — those are the individuals moved or inspired to do something, social capital will be required — that is the recognition we cannot do it alone, and the recognition we can step across boundaries to get it done,” said Seymour. “This issue affects housing on reserve and off-reserve. The issue includes the north, and goes from coast-to-coast. It includes homelessness and home ownership.” 

Aboriginals leave the reserve because they are looking for an economy where they can get a job, Seymour added. 

He described the CREA report as a collection of goodwill stories, “good ideas for action that I hope you will take home and consider for your area.” 

Sherry Lewis of the Aboriginal Women’s Association told the networking session that housing is even more of a critical issue for aboriginal women. 

“Between 1991 and 1996, 56 per cent of aboriginal women changed their address,” she explained, “and that was more than 20 per cent above the aboriginal average.” 

“Why did so many move? Because they left their reserve, because they went looking for better housing for their children, because they were in distress and needed temporary help. Those are all the basic reasons why housing is a critical issue for aboriginals.”