REALTOR® aboriginal housing forum

Canadian REALTORS® will host a networking session on aboriginal housing at the World Urban Forum III in Vancouver on June 20, announced the Canadian Real Estate Association. 

The session will contribute ideas and present experience to assist in the search for solutions to the problem of aboriginal housing in Canada and is based on the paper Aboriginal Housing in Canada: Building on Promising Practices, which was prepared by CREA for the International Housing Coalition.

The sector of Canadian housing most in need of action is aboriginal housing, and it didn’t take the CREA board of directors long to agree that this must be the focus of the association’s study. 

“More than half of all on-reserve housing is in substandard condition, and one study says there is an urgent need for 80,000 new units on reserves,” said Gerry Thiessen, CREA past-president and a founding director of the IHC. 

“Off reserve, 37 per cent of aboriginal people spend more than one-third of their incomes on housing. Aboriginal persons are also over represented in homeless populations in urban centres across the country.”

Manitoba has the highest proportion of aboriginal population among the 10 provinces. According to the 2001 Canadian Census, there are 52,000 aboriginal people living in Winnipeg, which represents 3.5 per cent of the city’s total population.This percentage continues to grow since urban aboriginals have a higher birth rate than the rest of the city’s population and people move off-reserve.

Statistics Canada, using 2001 Census data, said the aboriginal populations in the neighbourhoods of Centennial and Lord Selkirk Park in Winnipeg  were 49.5 and 54.3 per cent, respective. Aboriginals made up slightly over 19 per cent of the inner city’s total population.

Government reports indicate that at least 17 per cent of Winnipeg’s aboriginal population lives in substandard housing that is in need of major repairs. Another roughly 15 per cent live in housing that needs at least minor repairs.

Dave Tuccaro, a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation and President of Tuccaro Inc. in Fort McMurray, Alberta, will serve as moderator for a panel of three high-profile aboriginal-Canadians during the forum. 

Ron Jamieson is a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, chairman of the executive committee of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and retired senior vice president at the Bank of Montreal. 

David Seymour is founding director of the M’akola Group of Societies, and director of the National Aboriginal Housing Association. 

The third panelist, Beverley Jacobs, is a traditional Mohawk woman and president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

The International Housing Coalition is sponsoring 11 additional networking sessions on the world housing crisis during the World Urban Forum III. Developed in conjunction with a number of national and international organizations, these sessions will present important worldwide experience and recommend policies to improve housing in the developing world, Canada and the United States. 

Of special focus will be the issues of how to engage the private and non-governmental sectors, and how to raise the priority of housing among national and multilateral development assistance organizations.

“The IHC was organized by CREA, the (Washington-based) National Association of Realtors® and Habitat for Humanity International for the purpose of restoring housing to a position of importance and priority on the world development agenda,” said Thiessen.

While the decision to form the coalition coincided with Canada’s plans to hold the World Urban Forum, the group is planning to continue its work following the forum, added forum.

The Manitoba Real Estate Association is also developing a local aboriginal housing strategy.

Held every other year, the World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies. It is projected that in the next 50 years, two-thirds of the international population will be living in towns and cities.