Aboriginal housing program attracts more applicants than expected

The response to a new pilot housing partnership between the Manitoba Real Estate Association and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has exceeded expectations.

By the end of the March deadline, the MREA had received 80 applications and over 200 inquiries. 

“Although we had so many applicants, we only had enough money from the provincial and federal governments and from interest earned on broker’s 

accounts with MREA for assistance on the purchase of five homes,” said Danielle Morgan, executive-secretary of MREA.  

MREA and the AMC had originally been seeking enough money for successful applicants to purchase 40 homes. 

Morgan said the strong response may lead to the two senior levels of government freeing up more funds for the program. 

The province and Ottawa provided $150,000 for down payment assistance and another $250,000 for mortgage 

assistance, while MREA set aside $105,000 from interest earned on 

Manitoba Brokers’ Trust Accounts.

The Manitoba Tipi Mitawa (Dakota for My Home) program is designed to provide aboriginal people living off-reserve with the opportunity to become homeowners in Winnipeg. The program is striving to convert existing rental subsidies into mortgage subsidies to break the cycle of poverty and at the same time free rental units for others.

One of the applicants was single-

parent Alisha Bigelow, who wants to provide a home for her 11-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son after years of renting in Winnipeg.

Alisha said without the program she would not have had the down payment required for a home purchase.

“What I love about the idea of having our home is that we can fix it up how we want it to look and the kids can have their friends over and be proud they have their own place,” said Alisha.

Using $26,000 of its own money for research and administrative costs, MREA under past-president Harry 

De Leeuw began to investigate aboriginal homeownership in the province. One troubling statistic uncovered was that only 45 per cent of aboriginal 

people living off-reserve were homeowners.

“When REALTORS® look at the 

socio-economic statistics, we understand the link between a growing 

urban aboriginal population (Statistics Canada data reveals over 67,000, or 10 per cent, of Winnipeg's population is aboriginal) and the disparities in quality of life between First Nations people and the rest of the population,” said 

De Leeuw.

“We know an entire community benefits and becomes more stable when everyone has the opportunity to buy a home and watch that home grow in value.”

Morgan said the 80 applications will be reviewed to determine the qualifications of the applicants. The final decision on who will be given assistance to buy the first five homes will be made by the policy board, which is made up of four members each from the AMC and MREA.

Successful applicants must be able to carry the cost of a monthly mortgage and can purchase a home in any Winnipeg neighbourhood.

Morgan said it is hoped the program will eventually expand outside Winnipeg to other Manitoba communities.