First Nations Families Gain Wealth and Security – Housing Program Improves Quality of Life

December 17, 2012 Winnipeg, Manitoba: First Nations families that bought their first homes recently have seen their investment increase an average $25,000 in just three years thanks to a new housing program designed to get more Aboriginal families into homes they own – instead of renting.

The Manitoba Tipi Mitawa (MTM) program has supported 11 First Nations families to date as they bought homes in neighbourhoods from Transcona to Elmwood to St. John’s-Inkster. The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) estimates that six families that bought between 2009 and 2011 have seen their personal wealth increase $154,000 in total, thanks to an increase in the value of their homes. The home value increases ranged from $4,000 to $60,000 per home.

“This is exactly what we hoped would happen when we first launched this program five years ago,” says MREA spokesperson Harry DeLeeuw, whose organization also provided one-third of every homeowner’s 15 per cent house down payment.

While the financial returns are impressive, it’s the social returns that are far more impressive, says DeLeeuw, who was part of a MTM team delivering trees to the program’s homeowners this season.

“As we delivered trees from house to house the stories were incredible. Families said they felt more secure in their future and their children’s future because they were in homes they owned, homes they could renovate to their style, homes that allowed their children to grow up with a yard, a dog, a real Christmas tree and attend the same school year after year. That’s a feeling of security and stability that money can’t buy. It improves their quality of life, makes our neighbourhoods healthier and starts to change the urban landscape,” says DeLeeuw.

MREA created, managed and partially funded MTM. It was launched in January 2008 in a joint partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs as Manitoba Tipi Mitawa Inc. Grand Chief Derek Nepinak continues to support the program.

“MTM is a practical example of how the private sector can work with First Nation organizations like the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to address the housing need in urban centres. By addressing affordable home ownership, we can build a strong foundation that creates real opportunities for those who stand to benefit the most. MTM is a great example of what we all can do to support our First Nations people as housing does much more than provide shelter. It contributes to the revitalization and renewal of communities and families while allowing them the opportunity to create pride in a place they can now call home,” said Grand Chief Nepinak.

The program could not have happened without help from Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation (MHRC) and the Government of Canada that provided subsidized mortgage payments and down payment assistance for 12 families to date. MHRC converted existing funds for rental subsidies into mortgage subsidies. Assiniboine Credit Union provided the families with their mortgages.

While the first leg of funding has come to a close, MREA and AMC remain committed to the program and are actively seeking funding for the next stage.

“We promised to do 40 homes and we’re just part way through that promise. Now that we’ve shown it works we are hoping old and new partners will join us to make this a reality for more Aboriginal families,” said DeLeeuw at a Christmas celebration today for the MTM families.

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