Partnership needed to expand Manitoba Tipi Mitawa program
January 31 – WINNIPEG–The Manitoba Real Estate Association, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Manitoba government are grappling with how to save a groundbreaking home ownership program that is lifting First Nations families into security and prosperity in Winnipeg.
Manitoba Tipi Mitawa (MTM) has placed 14 families, including more than 20 children, into homes of their own choosing since 2009. Successful applicants must demonstrate job stability, a strong credit rating, and the ability to succeed as homeowners.
On Friday, January 30th, the final MTM applicant moves into her home after being a renter for more than 20 years. The 45-year old single mother has held the same job for almost 22 years and can afford mortgage payments but needed a boost to come up with a down payment. She applied three times to get into MTM to meet every requirement. About 100 other First Nations people in Winnipeg are currently waiting to apply and MREA receives calls daily.
The Manitoba government had committed to the project, to convert existing rental housing subsidies into down payment assistance and mortgage subsidies, if required. MREA comes up with the rest. Provincial budget deficiencies now threaten the program’s future but talks continue with hope for ongoing partnership. MREA and AMC are not giving up and must secure committed partnership(s) to expand.
“This doesn’t actually cost the government additional money. It dramatically reduces both short and long-term affordable rental housing, public safety, education and other community services costs,” said MTM co-chair Harry DeLeeuw.
DeLeeuw is a past president of both the Canadian Real Estate Association and MREA.
“We all know that home ownership creates stability. Children grow up with strong roots in the neighbourhood and build long-term friendships and relationships with teachers and friends down the street. Communities grow stronger when people are empowered to choose where they wish to live, work and attend school,” said DeLeeuw.
Countless First Nations people have the desire and ability to successfully own homes, said Jason Whitford, MTM co-chair and program manager at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs / Eagle Urban Transition Centre.
“We passionately believe in this partnership. We were early to the table with MREA because this program is responsible and progressive, both socially and financially. MTM is empowering First Nations people in Winnipeg to independence. This is about building stronger communities today and brighter futures for tomorrow,” Whitford said.
Of all MTM families and individuals since 2009, not one has missed a mortgage payment, said DeLeeuw. Every selected applicant receives expert training on basic property maintenance and financial management. Then, they work with REALTORS® who assist the buyer to choose a home – within budget – in their desired neighbouhood.
“We are breaking cycles of poverty in Winnipeg right now. We must lift more and more people to independence. With MTM, parents are demonstrating that First Nations people in Winnipeg are role models,” Whitford.
Now that the first 14 families into MTM are successful homeowners instead of renters, they are also building equity. Some have seen their homes increase in value by as much as $40,000, said DeLeeuw.
“It seems we are a little ahead of our time with the vision and the plan. More community outreach to build partnerships will help us all move forward,” he said.
The program is not intended to replace affordable housing rental project funding, but to enhance it.
“Affordable rental housing is a crucial part of the provincial housing strategy for lower-income people, including First Nations people. MTM does not replace need for rentals — it frees them up and gives people a secure way out of the system. All this saves the taxpayer and government enormous social and housing costs,” said DeLeeuw.
In the past 15 years, the Manitoba government has announced and funded more affordable housing rental units than any other time in the province’s history, as funding for MTM ran out.
The affordable housing puzzle must have two pieces fitting together — affordable rental units, and home ownership down payment assistance, DeLeeuw said. MTM is the only known program in North America offering a boost for qualified First Nations home buyers living in urban centres.
Once an individual or family owns a home, the cycle of poverty and need for housing assistance can be broken.
“We are lifting up deserving, responsible and hardworking people who are ready to own a home but are simply cash poor due to the high cost of living,” said DeLeeuw.
By converting rental subsidies into down payment assistance and mortgage subsidies, if needed, the dream of home ownership is coming true for First Nations people in Winnipeg.
Tipi Mitawa means “My Home” in the Dakota language.
The program’s future will rely on continued vision, understanding and the commitment to do more.