Assessing Urban Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness in Canada

This report sought to determine the current state of urban Aboriginal housing and how itcan be improved. An up-to-date mapping of Aboriginal people’s housing conditions in urbanareas is provided. Nationally rates of urban Aboriginal homeownership and rental rates are lower than that of mainstream Canada. Urban Aboriginal homelessness is a substantial issue based on noticeably higher levels of Aboriginal representation amongst the national homeless population.It is evident that national policies are needed to specifically aid urban Aboriginal renters and homeowners, and to ameliorate urban Aboriginal homelessness. Home ownership helps reducethe gap between mainstream and Aboriginal rates of core housing need. However, Aboriginalrenters are considerably worse off than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, and present higher rates of core housing need and overcrowding. Beyond affordability issues individual andcommunity-driven resistance to Aboriginal housing initiatives and individual Aboriginal desires for permanent urban residency are evident. A cyclical process hindering urban Aboriginal renter and homeownership advancement is also apparent. Métis and Non-Status Indians are more likelyto become homeowners than Status Indians and Inuit. Existing programs are inadequate toaddress the housing and homeless issues identified, and successful approaches such as theHousing First model have to this point been largely overlooked. We would suggest establishing proactive policies with the goal of facilitating individual transition into urban centres, while also exploring why discrimination and racism remains prevalent for urban Aboriginal renters and homeowners. We recommend that the Canadian Government formally endorse the National AboriginalHousing Association’s call for a national non-reserve housing strategy. Establishing a national Housing and Homelessness Secretariat devoted to reserve and urban Aboriginal housing andhomeless issues is also advocated. Additional research is required to determine why Métis and Non-Status Indians are more likely to become homeowners than Status Indians and Inuit. And acomprehensive national enumeration of Aboriginal homelessness is required. The nature of homelessness needs to be explored, as does our understanding of rural Aboriginal homeless ratesand its impact on urban lifestyles. Consideration should be given to reinstating and increasing funding for social housing and mortgage subsidies under the Aboriginal off-reserve programs of the CMHC. Greater autonomy and flexibility must be granted to Aboriginal organizations delivering programs in rural areas, and to urban social housing corporations. There is a need toexplore the socio-economic reasons of core housing need and to determine whether low labour market and educational outcomes are impeding urban Aboriginal homeownership. A nationalstudy exploring the impacts of NIMBY on rental opportunities, and the related influence over urban Aboriginal homeless rates, is required as is greater attention to creating proactive policies to assist with urban Aboriginal homeownership and improving rental opportunities, and tocombat homelessness. Ottawa needs to consider providing rental subsidies as a cost-effectiveoption. Finally, public education strategies need to be developed to demonstrate NIMBY’snegative impact on urban Aboriginal rental opportunities, and how improved homeownershiprates translate into lower public response costs for poverty programming.

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