(a) The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, INAC, provides funding to first nations as part of its minor capital allocation. Historically, the housing portion of minor capital amounts to $138 million annually.
An additional $20 million has been made available under Gathering Strength. This includes $2 million annually for the innovative housing fund and $0.5 million to support the housing training fund. The balance of $17.5 million will be used to provide additional one time funding for first nations which develop comprehensive, community based housing plans under the 1996 on reserve housing policy.
In addition, first nations can access funds for new construction under the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s, CMHC, rental housing assistance program. Funding for renovations is also available through CMHC’s residential rehabilitation assistance program, RRAP.
Finally, first nation communities and their individual members can obtain housing loans from private sector financial institutions. Although first nations are located on crown land, and as such are non-mortgageable, security is provided to the lending institution through the use of ministerial loan guarantees, MLG.
(b) INAC does not assess needs for housing. It allocates minor capital funding to each first nation to cover a range of services, including housing, that have been devolved to first nations and is generally defined as funding provided to first nations on an ongoing basis. Minor capital flows annually to first nations from regions on a formula basis, an historically based amount or on the basis of approved housing plans.
(c) INAC does not set objectives for the numbers of houses constructed or renovated.
(d) The housing program is administered by first nations or their designated housing authorities, which establish local policies, including the allocation of available funding, the establishment of priorities and the planning and implementation of housing projects. These activities are based upon the first nation’s comprehensive community based housing plans.
In addition, the 1996 on reserve housing policy had the effect of removing subsidy limits toward the construction and/or renovation of houses. As a result, first nations can use INAC housing funds for a wide range of housing related activities, including maintaining and insuring their housing portfolio, the administration and management of the housing program, debt servicing and training.
While first nations have flexibility regarding the use of INAC funding, over the past five years they have constructed an average of over 2,500 new houses annually and carried out renovations on over 3,300 existing housing units annually.