Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Closing housing gap for urban Indigenous people could cost $1.4B a year: report

Nationally, about 124,000 Indigenous households are in core housing need

The federal government would have to spend about $1.4 billion more a year to close a housing gap facing urban Indigenous people, the parliamentary budget officer says in a report that hints at the scale of a promised federal strategy to address the issue.

The cost in the report would be at the upper end of a range that starts at $159 million annually, depending on what percentage of construction costs and rent subsidies the government wants to cover.

As is, the Liberals’ decade-long national housing strategy explicitly allocates $179 million per year to Indigenous housing in urban, rural and northern areas, the PBO calculated.

The Liberals bill the cost of the strategy at over $55 billion, which includes spending to help offset mortgage costs for first-time homebuyers, as a key avenue to help ease a housing crunch for hundreds of thousands of households.

Nationally, about 124,000 Indigenous households are in core housing need, the PBO report estimated, meaning they live in units that stretch them financially, need hefty repairs, or are not large enough for their families.

The budget office’s calculation estimated the annual gap between what those households pay and the housing costs deemed affordable by a federal housing agency to be $636 million.

The federal Liberals have promised to create an urban Indigenous housing strategy, with details expected in this year’s federal budget.

Already, Liberals have been out touting coming spending to meet a promise made during the 2019 federal election campaign and sprinkled into multiple ministerial mandate letters.

The Liberals have spoken about funding for urban Indigenous housing providers as the missing piece of the national housing strategy, having already provided funding for on-reserve housing.

More than half of Indigenous households living in inadequate homes reside in the country’s biggest cities, with Winnipeg housing the highest number based on the PBO’s estimates, followed closely by Vancouver.

The report from budget office provides an idea of how much spending the Liberals would have to add to the national housing strategy, depending on how much of the housing and affordability gap the government wants to close.

Budget officer Yves Giroux said the gap is unlikely to shrink, pointing to relatively hot housing markets across the country, despite the pandemic, and demographic factors: Indigenous populations have recently grown faster than non-Indigenous people.

“These two factors suggest that the numbers to plug the affordability gap are likely to go up rather than down,” he said.

That could change if Indigenous households gain a larger foothold in the labour market and see their incomes rise, Giroux said, “but it’s not what we are seeing in the last several years.”

Indigenous households are one-and-a-half times more likely to be in housing need than non-Indigenous households, Giroux noted, with an average annual gap of $5,000 between what they should and do pay for adequate housing.

The situation is even more acute in the North, with Inuit households almost two-and-a-half times more likely to live in inadequate or unaffordable housing.

Part of the gap has to do with the adequacy requirement that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation uses to define “core housing need,” which looks at how many rooms are needed depending on family size.

Indigenous families tend to be larger than non-Indigenous households, and census data has shown that multiple Indigenous families can be living under one roof in overcrowded homes.

A parliamentary committee researching urban Indigenous housing issues commissioned Giroux’s report released Thursday.

The House of Commons committee is expected to soon release its report, which would lay the foundation for a federal program.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

federal governmentIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cole Schisler, editor of the Ladysmith Chronicle.
Hatred has no place anywhere

We accomplish so much more when we respect each other

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Rachel Dunstan Muller. (Submitted photo)
Ladysmith storyteller Rachel Dunstan Muller launches pair of podcasts

Hintertales: Stories from the Margins of History and Sticks and Stones and Stories are available now

(Black Press file photo)
Multiple vehicle collision at Grouhel Road stalls highway traffic

Two emergency services helicopters responded to the collision

Chemainus Festival of Murals Society president Tom Andrews displays the Chemainus Dollars $10 bill with the same scene on it as The Native Heritage mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Dollars revert to being strictly souvenirs on April 5

Unique currency turns collectible under the Festival of Murals Society

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Most Read