The Cree Nation Government has received $200 million in federal funding to create 750 units of social housing across the Cree communities.
The funding came after repeated CNG proposals to the federal government for a 10-year-commitment to “bridge the gap of social housing.” Longchap said the government finally offered $200 million to create 750 units in only four years.
“We don’t think we’ll be done within four years, but we’ll try our best,” Longchap said. “We’ll see how fast communities can build units when the program starts.”
Cree communities would need to begin construction this summer. Longchap said communities build at different speeds, but that if all goes well there should be people moving into units as early as next year. But he can’t predict how many units would be constructed in each of them.
The funding was unexpected after years of unsuccessful proposals. “The Crees were surprised to get an offer of this amount – they were hoping to get a long-term agreement to deliver and build 750 units over 10 years.”
Longchap said the funding wasn’t made public last summer because the Canadian government “was still working on other programs for other First Nations across Canada and didn’t want it to jeopardize what they were working towards.”
However, he thinks the Cree Nation “got more than our fair share of funding made available to First Nations for housing.” Partly, that’s because the government recognized the Cree Nation already invests in infrastructure – including water, sewage and electricity – that facilitates housing construction.
Communities needed plans for units that fit the specifications and costs of the program and for how to do it over a four- or five-year period, he said. “That took a while for communities to come up with.” Partly, because they’re not as big as other social housing units that the CNG has built in the past.
Longchap said it took nearly a year to come up with a social housing policy for the program, to get individual communities to sign-off on the policies, and for communities and leadership to approve the deliverables. Now it’s just a matter of starting construction and having the funding transferred as the work progresses.
The rental units would be owned by the community, with a focus on those meeting social criteria such as low-income families, those on welfare, or who receive hunting income security assistance.
by Ben Powless, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter