Budget Cuts to On Reserve Social Housing Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 7, 2012, Treaty 6 Territory, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan... The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has learned the Saskatchewan 2012-13 CMHC Section 95 budget allocation has been cut to $18.7 million, down 30% from the year before and is expected to remain the same in 2013-14.
First Nations housing has been underfunded for years- even the federal government acknowledges the funding cap in place since 1996 has not matched the need in our communities. As populations grow, First Nations are continually forced to do more with less; substandard living conditions and debt are the inevitable results. Given this, and the national attention placed on housing due to the Attawapiskat crisis, it seems incredible CMHC would unilaterally cut the national on-reserve social housing program.
"This is a crisis, housing cuts will impact the standard of living of our communities which is already well below the poverty line. What's needed is a stable, reasonable, multi-year funding so that First Nations can plan ahead instead of the current approach," said Vice Chief Morley Watson.
In 2011-12, 159 units were committed through the Section 95 Program. This year, CMHC estimates 88 units will be built in the province, a drop of 45%. Also shocking is that only 14 First Nations received commitments, and just 27 were eligible out of 74. To become eligible for a Section 95 commitment, First Nations must meet the requirements of both CMHC and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). In the past 5 years, the average number per year of First Nations who received commitments is 18.
Currently, there is a shortage of 11,000 homes on reserves across Saskatchewan. The largest Tribal Council in the province (Prince Albert Grand Council) has an occupancy rate double the national average, and estimates its' member communities require 4,000 new units just to meet the off reserve rate. Overcrowding is a direct cause of health, education, and social issues, and makes it difficult for people to improve their lives.
First Nations hold that shelter is a Treaty Right however the Crown has always maintained it is a social program. Oral histories, which have been upheld in court, clearly demonstrate the Treaty Elders had reason to believe shelter was promised by the Crown. However, what the Crown produced in writing did not reflect these promises and since then, the government has used the Indian Act as the basis for dealings with First Nations.
"They say they want us to become equal partners in society, yet their actions show otherwise. Either make Section 95 a program that doesn't penalize First Nations and available for everybody to use or else come up with something new," concluded Chief Watson of FSIN.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.
For more information, please contact:
Nicole Robertson, Communications Advisor