Housing: Current Problems

Indigenous Housing Reports

June 27, 2022

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, PE, QC, SK, YT

AFN Regional Chief Presses Urgent Action at Meeting with Federal, Provincial, Territorial Ministers of Housing

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations: AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse participated in a meeting today with Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Ministers of Housing and National Indigenous Organizations (NIOs), calling for more investments and support for First Nations housing and challenging Provincial and Territorial governments to work in partnership with First Nations.

“I believe we share a belief in a universal principle – adopted internationally as a basic human right – that safe and adequate housing is not only essential for the wellbeing of First Nations, but is essential for everyone’s wellbeing,” said AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse, who is responsible for the AFN Housing portfolio on the AFN Executive Committee. “First Nations from coast to coast to coast share an over abundance of poor quality and quantity of housing, due to a deplorable legacy of colonialism. It is our shared commitment to change that reality and ensure all our people have safe and healthy homes.”

AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse provided remarks on the implementation of the federal Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy, AFN National First Nations Homelessness Action Plan and First Nations jurisdiction over housing.

In addition to pressing for more investments, AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse challenged all Provincial and Territorial (PT) governments to work in partnership with First Nations on housing priorities with First Nations taking the lead.

“I lift up the Government of British Columbia for leading the way for its provincial and territorial counterparts by investing in urban and rural Indigenous housing and all housing in First Nation communities,” said AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse. “Provincial and territorial government investments will go a long way in reducing homelessness in urban areas, while raising the standard of housing to a level enjoyed by most Canadians, and we must work together with First Nations leading the way.”

The 2022 Federal Budget committed $3 billion over five years to First Nations housing compared to the minimum $60 billion needed to close the funding gap for First Nations housing.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the collective aspirations of First Nations individuals and communities across Canada on matters of national or international nature and concern. 

September 22, 2022


Encouraging signs in First Nations Housing: 2021 Census

Figures mark improvement but still show work lays ahead, says government official

Toronto Star: Indigenous people in Canada are more likely to have poor housing conditions, information released Wednesday by Statistics Canada shows, despite an overall decrease in the percentage of Indigenous people residing in homes in need of major repairs or ones that are crowded.

The figures mark an improvement in recent years but still show work lays ahead, said Nelson Barbosa of Indigenous Services Canada. “I think it’s encouraging that there has been the progress since the previous census,” said Barbosa, who is senior director at the department’s Housing and Infrastructure Service Reform Directorate. “That shows that inroads are being made, but in no way does that mean that housing solutions in First Nations communities are fully rectified.”

The data was released as part of the latest 2021 census data on housing. The figures delve into housing conditions of First Nations people, Métis and Inuit in Canada.

About 17.1 per cent of Indigenous people lived in crowded homes, census data shows, and 16.4 per cent were in homes in need of major repairs. By comparison 9.4 per cent of non-Indigenous people lived in crowded housing. Crowded housing is categorized by a home’s shortfall of bedrooms, of one, two, or three or more.

The data showed the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living in crowded homes narrowed 1.7 percentage points from the previous census in 2016. Those living in a home in need of major repairs went down 2.7 percentage points.

For First Nations people, multi-generational homes were most common for those in crowded housing, while for Métis and Inuit people it was couples with children.

Across Canada, home to 1.8 million Indigenous people, the figures varied greatly. Data focused on First Nations people showed Newfoundland and Labrador saw just five per cent of First Nations residents were in crowded housing with nine per cent in such housing needing repairs. In general, Atlantic Canada had the lowest numbers in the country.

But the story changes drastically in the prairies.

Manitoba had 36 per cent of its First Nations population living in crowded housing, with 29 per cent in housing in need of serious repairs. Next door in Saskatchewan, the figure came in at 34 per cent and 25 per cent. The disparity between Manitoba, Saskatchewan and other regions of Canada shows there are different needs in each community, Barbosa said.

He said the federal government has increased its funding of housing initiatives for Indigenous communities in recent years. “There has been significant investment made in the interim period from one census to the other,” Barbosa said.

The federal government as a whole has spent $6.8 billion on Indigenous housing over the last six years, he said. Most of the money coming from Indigenous Services Canada, about $150 million annually, flows directly through First Nations on reserve, he said. Canada’s 2022 budget committed $2.4 billion for housing on reserve over five years.

Barbosa said the financial commitments are not only prolonged, but are also increasing for Métis, Inuit as well as First Nations. “Progress is partly money and progress is also partnership,” he said. “I would see it as a balancing act, even though there’s a ways to go in bridging the gap.”

The government of Saskatchewan said it has more than 50 active agreements with more than 20 Métis organizations for 700 housing units in the province. Saskatchewan is also working to increase off-reserve housing options for Indigenous people with a $70-million investment, according to the Ministry of Social Services.

Manitoba’s finance department said it does not have data for Indigenous people living off reserve in the province.

Multi-generational homes were most common for those in crowded housing, while for Métis and Inuit people it was couples with children

June 14, 2022

Fed. Govt.

Federal Housing Advocate will receive two urgent human rights claims from Women and Indigenous groups

NationTalk: On June 14, the Federal Housing Advocate will receive two urgent human rights claims from Women and Indigenous groups raising the growing housing emergency for women and gender-diverse people – a first in Canada

Today, the Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network (WNHHN) and the Indigenous women-led Keepers of the Circle have submitted two Human Rights Claims to the Federal Housing Advocate, which spotlight the federal government’s failure to adequately address housing need and homelessness for marginalized women and gender-diverse people. These Claims assert that this failure has manufactured a national human rights crisis for women and gender-diverse people, and constitute violations of the right to equality and the right to housing. They request an urgent review by the Federal Housing Advocate.

Marie-Josée Houle, the Advocate, has a mandate to review systemic housing issues identified by communities across Canada and make recommendations on how to address them. Situated at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, she is an independent, nonpartisan watchdog on the human right to housing. Her role is to hold Canadian governments accountable for their obligations to address housing need and homelessness across Canada. Recommendations she offers are submitted to the Minister responsible for housing, who must respond within 120 days and table that response in the House of Commons and the Senate. These recommendations can lead to critical policy changes to meaningfully address the growing crisis.

Drawing on legal analysis, lived expertise testimony, and extensive research, these Claims outline how the failure to invest in affordable housing violates women and gender-diverse people’s right to equality and right to housing. Research indicates that the National Housing Strategy is failing those who are suffering the most in the housing crisis – Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons; single moms living on low-incomes; women with disabilities; Black and racialized women and gender-diverse people; newcomers and refugees; and many others who face intersecting forms of marginalization. The Claims are submitted in the hopes that the Federal Housing Advocate will urgently make recommend changes to improve gender equity in housing.  

“We developed this claim because we see no future for ourselves and our communities in the current housing system,” says Kaitlin Schwan, WNHHN National Director and co-author of the WNHHN’s Human Rights Claim. “We live in a housing system in which profit is prioritized over women’s right to a dignified life, to safety, and to equality. A new vision is urgently needed.”

The National Indigenous Feminist Housing Working Group (NIFHWG) situated with Keepers of the Circle submitted a claim focusing on the national housing crisis and its impact on Indigenous women and girls. The violations outlined build on the ongoing history of colonialism, genocide, and oppression that continues to fuel today’s crisis.

“Violations of the right to housing are at the core of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. Following the findings of the TRC and MMWIG Inquiry reports and the ongoing uncovering of children’s graves at residential schools—NIFHWG decided to engage in this urgent process for our government to address violations against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and gender-diverse people’s right to housing,” says Khulud Baig, Keepers of the Circle Housing & Homelessness Research Lead.

The claim proposes a unique opportunity to the Federal Housing Advocate to co-develop a transformative human rights process with Indigenous women and gender-diverse people to articulate the right to housing on their own terms.

“These claims are a symbol of Indigenous women and girls taking their futures back—and it’s only the beginning of an urgent process for our government to utilize the National Housing Strategy Act to address the egregious violations against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s and gender-diverse people’s right to housing,” says Marie McGregor Pitawanakwat, Co-Chair, NIFHWG.

Learn more at womenshomelessness.ca/humanrightsclaims.

– 30 –


September 27, 2018


Moccassin Flats Evictions

Canadian Press – A report “Moccassin Flats Evictions“: Métis Home, Forced Relocation, and Resilience in Fort McMurray, Alberta” commissioned by the Fort McMurray Metis says the housing subsidiary of oilsands giant Syncrude collaborated with the municipality to evict mostly Metis families 40 years ago to make way for an apartment tower. The eviction disrupted people’s lives and caused lasting economic harm to families. It broke up a tight-knit community and cut people off from their traditions.

The evicted families were leased trailers from the municipality, which were of substandard quality and on land that couldn’t be passed along to their children. The report recommends compensation, a monument and cultural centre and a land transfer.

August 11, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

NAN Chiefs Endorse Housing Strategy look to Canada and Ontario to Address Housing Crisis

TIMMINS, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) will seek support from the governments of Canada and Ontario for a new First Nation-designed strategy endorsed by Chiefs-in-Assembly to address the housing crisis in NAN First Nations and improve the health of community members.

“The NAN Housing Strategy was developed by our members as a solution to the needs of their communities, and our leaders have endorsed it as the path forward,” said Grand Chief Derek Fox. “The Prime Minister has committed to take action on homelessness and provide support for affordable housing. The Premier has made housing a priority and has promised to deliver an aggressive plan by working with the federal government and other partners. We are ready to start immediately and will look for firm commitments from our federal and provincial Treaty partners to prioritize this Strategy and put this plan into action.”

The NAN Housing Strategy is the result of a three-year project focused on creating occupant-focused housing assessments, determining localized housing needs, and developing evidence-based housing action plans and solutions. It includes seven themes of action: 1. Advocating for Inclusive Housing; 2. Addressing the Health Impacts of Housing; 3. Appropriate and Sustainable Design and Materials; 4. Integrated Infrastructure Planning; 5. Alternative Funding Structures; 6. Governance and Policy Reform; and 7. Capacity Development and Training.

A NAN-wide Housing State of Emergency was declared by NAN Chiefs in 2014 following years of deplorable housing conditions that have contributed to severe health issues exacerbated by overcrowding and mold. This crisis was reaffirmed in 2018 with the development of a community-based housing strategy through a research partnership between NAN and Toronto Metropolitan University’s Together Design Lab.

In addition to the Strategy’s long-term goals, work is already underway on the co-design of specialized housing solutions for youth, singles, and community members in need of emergency housing and community members in need of housing with supports.

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in January confirmed the link between the poor health of many First Nations people and the deplorable housing they are forced to live in. It provided recommendations to the federal government to improve housing and infrastructure for better health outcomes for community members.

The NAN Housing Strategy was endorsed by resolution during the 40th Keewaywin Conference (August 9-11) in the traditional territory of Mattagami First Nation.

CMAJ Study Respiratory Morbidity in Indigenous Children in Relation to Housing Conditions in Remote Communities in Northwestern Ontario:https://www.cmaj.ca/content/194/3/E80

For more information please contact:
Michael Heintzman,
Director of Communications
Cell: (807) 621-2790

June 15, 2022

Fed. Govt.

The effects of the housing shortage on Indigenous People in Canada

Report of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs

APTN: Indigenous Services Canada is on track to miss its 2030 target to close the infrastructure gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, according to the House of Commons committee on Indigenous affairs. The committee’s latest report says the department should revise its housing investment strategy if it wants to significantly address the infrastructure crisis by the end of the decade, “since the target will not be met” under the current pace.

“The committee is worried that the current resources allocated to housing are not sufficient for the government to meet the targets it set itself as part of the National Housing Strategy,” the report says. “Changes are required if Canada is to significantly address housing needs by 2030.”

The committee heard from 41 witnesses between March and June as it studied how the housing crisis impacts Indigenous people countrywide. The MPs delivered a 51-page report this week containing 20 recommendations to immediately improve things.

MPs heard the longstanding housing crisis facing First Nations, Inuit and Métis has had “severe consequences” on everything ranging from education and economic development to cultural vitality and physical and mental health.

Community leaders testified that Indigenous people have been deprived of the basic human right to shelter due to colonialism, racism, discrimination, unaffordability, Indian Act paternalism, the lack of a sufficient land base, limited administrative capacity and decades of chronic, wilful underfunding.

“Throughout the country’s colonial history, Inuit, First Nations and Métis have been subjected to atrocities and injustices which have had continued impacts on the subject at the centre of this report: housing,” the committee says. “Colonial policies have affected housing at its core, including by making it less accessible, less affordable and in worse condition.”

The committee opened the study following the delivery of a housing-focused budget by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland earlier this year. The spending plan included $4.3 billion over seven years for Indigenous housing. But the Assembly of First Nations lobby group estimates the true cost of closing the on-reserve housing gap will be about $40 billion: nearly 10 times that amount.

During the 2021 election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated this pledge to close the infrastructure gap by 2030. It’s a topline item in Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu’s mandate letter. The prime minister made a similar promise to end all long-term on-reserve drinking water advisories by 2021 while campaigning to run the country in 2015. The Liberals missed that deadline and refuse to offer a new one more than a year later.

For full details on all 20 recommendations as well as background context on the scope and consequences of the housing shortage and the following contributing factors, click on the following link:

  • Systemic Barriers 
  • Affordability, High Costs and Remoteness 
  • The Indian Act 
  • Limited Land Base and Infrastructure 
  • Population Growth
  • Limited Capacity 


October 21, 2019

Fed. Govt.

UN Special Rapporteur report on Indigenous housing

CBC – In Canada, close to half of all First Nations people live on reserves, and more than 25 per cent of them live in overcrowded conditions, constituting approximately seven times the proportion of non-indigenous people nationally. More than 10,000 on-reserve homes in Canada are without indoor plumbing, and 25 per cent of reserves in Canada have substandard water or sewage systems. In a country with more fresh water than anywhere else in the world, 75 per cent of the reserves in Canada have contaminated water, with communities such as Attawapiskat declaring a state of emergency because of toxic chemical levels in the water.

A United Nations report “Adequate housing as a component of a right to an adequate standard of living and the right to non-discrimination in this context” is highlighting the role “abhorrent” housing conditions play in the poverty and exploitation that Indigenous people face in Canada and around the world. “(Indigenous people) are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes as a result, they have disproportionately high rates of homelessness and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change. “The right to housing under international human rights law is something that is legally binding on governments in Canada,” said Farha. “That’s really important because the UN’s DRIP isn’t a legal instrument in the way that the treaty for the right to housing is.” (Canadian Press)

In contemporary times, the indigenous struggle for human rights is deeply rooted in the concept of “home”. Understood from an indigenous perspective, this concept is not just about a built structure where one lives, but is about one’s place on the planet, defined through one’s lands, resources, identity and culture. Indigenous peoples the world over have been wrested from their homes: their identities, histories and cultures are denied, their lands are stolen, and they are stripped of their resources through land-grabbing and extractive industries. They are told where they can and cannot live. They are relocated to the least productive lands, and once there, they are denied the necessities of life, such as potable water and sanitation services.

Although indigenous peoples have contributed the least to climate change, they are on the front lines bearing its devastating consequences. In cities, they experience discrimination, grossly inadequate housing and scandalous rates of street homelessness. At worst, housing laws, policies and programmes are completely blind to indigenous peoples’ histories, exacerbating their experiences of colonization, and at best they provide particularized programming that falls short of needs.

See the attached link for the Special Rapporteurs 17 recommendations: