Assessing Urban Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness in Canada

2012 UAKN Research Paper Series

Executive Summary

The purpose of this report was to determine the current state of urban Aboriginal housing and how it can be improved. An up-to-date mapping of Aboriginal people’s housing conditions in urban areas 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 reduce the gap between mainstream and Aboriginal rates of core housing need. However, Aboriginal renters are considerably worse off than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, and present higher rates of core housing need and overcrowding. Beyond affordability issues individual and community-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 likely to become homeowners than Status Indians and Inuit. Existing programs are inadequate to address the housing and homeless issues identified, and successful approaches such as the Housing 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 Aboriginal Housing Association’s call for a national non-reserve housing strategy. Establishing a national Housing and Homelessness Secretariat devoted to reserve and urban Aboriginal housing and homeless 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 a comprehensive national enumeration of Aboriginal homelessness is required. The nature of homelessness needs to be explored, as does our understanding of rural Aboriginal homeless rates and its impact on urban lifestyles. Reinstate and increase funding for new 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 to explore the socio-economic reasons of core housing need and to determine whether low labour market and educational outcomes are impeding urban Aboriginal homeownership. A national study 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 to combat homelessness. Ottawa needs to consider providing rental subsidies as a cost-effective option where rental markets exist. Finally, public education strategies need to be developed to demonstrate NIMBY’s negative impact on urban Aboriginal rental opportunities, and how improved homeownership rates translate into lower public response costs for poverty programming.