First successful applicants for Manitoba Tipi Mitawa

Five aboriginal families have been selected as the first recipients of funding assistance to purchase their own home under the Manitoba Tipi Mitawa program initiated by the Manitoba Real Estate Association.

“This is a unique example of a true partnership between First Nations and the private sector to create housing opportunities for all Canadians,” said Lorne Weiss, chairman of MREA’s political action committee.

Tipi Mitawa (Dakota language), or My Home in English, is a program operated in conjunction with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to provide off-reserve housing opportunities for aboriginals. 

Although all five candidates were selected for homeownership in Winnipeg, the plan is to expand the program to other Manitoba communities such as Thompson and Brandon.

Weiss said the program’s eventual goal is to obtain funding for another 35 homes.

Darcy Wood, a policy analyst with the AMC, said over 200 inquiries were received about the program which resulted in 100 applications from which the five successful applicants were chosen. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have an annual income between $25,000 and $50,000 and be able to pay a monthly mortgage. The AMC oversees the selection process.

Successful applicants receive assistance in the form of a 15-per-cent down payment to purchase a home valued to a maximum of $180,000. 

Funding for the pilot project of five homes is through $320,000 from the interest earned on Manitoba Brokers’ Trust Accounts, which MREA has earmarked for down payment assistance, as well as $150,000 in down payment and $250,000 in mortgage assistance from the federal government.

“Homeownership provides equity creation to break the cycle of poverty,” said Wood.

Harry De Leeuw, the chairman of MREA’s Aboriginal Home Ownership Initiative, said the number of children living in poverty in Manitoba “is a shocking 60 per cent and only 26 per cent of aboriginals in Manitoba own their own homes.

“When REALTORS® look at the socio-economic statistics, we understand the link between a growing aboriginal population (10 per cent, or over 67,000, of Winnipeg’s total: Statistics Canada) and the disparities in quality of life between First Nations people and the rest of the population,” added De Leeuw.

Weiss called the lack of aboriginal homeownership in Manitoba’s communities a “black mark that must be erased.”

Besides the funding assistance,  Tipi Mitawa also teaches successful applicants the responsibilities associated with owning a home such as everyday maintenance. Another aspect of the program for aboriginal Manitobans is an educational program leading to a career in real estate under the mentorship of MREA.

During the recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Prairie and Territories First Nation and Inuit Housing Symposium at the Radisson Downtown Hotel in Winnipeg, MREA joined with the Canadian Real Estate Association in announcing the need to strengthen First Nations communities through projects aimed at bringing new homeownership options to aboriginal Canadians.

Weiss, who is also the Manitoba representative on CREA’s board of directors, said the national association will be sponsoring a series of workshops run by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to promote First Nations on-reserve homeownership, the primary source of wealth and equity for most Canadians that has been denied to aboriginals living on reserves for too long.

Managing the workshops is Chris Maracle, who helped create one of the most successful on-reserve homeownership programs in Canada on the Mohawk Tyendinaga Territory.

“Successful First Nations housing programs with an emphasis on homeownership require strategic alliances and partnerships,” said Maracle. “The generous financial contribution of CREA and their regional affiliates will support First Nations’ capacity for development and assist those aspiring First Nations communities to develop homeownership opportunities.”

Weiss said new homeownership initiatives will be able to draw on the First Nations Market Housing Fund, a federal program designed to help people buy their own homes on-reserve. Officially started in May this year, $300 million was set aside in the 2007 federal budget, and CMHC expects to issue a call for proposals for the use of the capacity building portion of the fund by December.

Bill Madder, executive vice-president of the Association of Saskatchewan REALTORS®, said his association is interested in adapting the Manitoba Tipi Mitawa program to the needs of aboriginal communities in Saskatchewan. 

“We’re really looking forward to doing something similar,” he said.

“These are all examples of REALTORS® taking Quality of Life (a real estate industry program) and putting it in action for building better communities and ensuring all Canadians are participating fully in economic growth and opportunities,” said Weiss.