Housing Projects Update

Mon. Oct. 5/09
Housing Projects Update
Mark Kiemele

NmTC nations roll up their sleeves on housing

Since NmTC sponsored a Housing Governance workshop last year, our nations have been making major advances in setting out policies and procedures that work for them. And there has even been a building boom at Tsleil-Waututh that has been attributed to better housing practices. Here is a report on what is happening in some of our communities.

Excitement builds at Tsleil-Waututh

Heidi Martin, housing coordinator at Tsleil-Waututh (Burrard) Nation started out by thanking Klahowya “for the opportunity to share the excitement that is building here.”

Four of the five seats on the housing committee are filled by band members who live in the community. They are Cheyenne Hood, Tracey Payne, James George and Bonnie Angel. One seat is currently vacant.

“The committee has been meeting regularly for about a year and work really well together,” Martin said. The committee is chaired by council member Jen Thomas. “Travis George and I sit in on the meetings as housing staff,” she said. Travis is the housing officer and responsible for public works while Heidi was hired in July 2008. She is also a band member and has worked for TWN since 2003.

“Being the housing coordinator is very exciting and challenging,” she said. “I'm able to see first hand how our housing situation is improving every day. I'm extremely proud and honoured to be a part of this work.”

Martin said that when an NmTC-funded consultant first came to work with the committee, “our housing had almost no process or structure to it. There's been a huge learning curve for all of us.”

Cheyenne Hood, who is the vice-chair on the committee, said that she agreed that most had no idea how complex on-reserve housing really is and that “each step we take, however small, contributes to the building blocks of a firm foundation to build a successful housing program on. Each document for governance, each new tenancy agreement signed, gets us closer to our goal.”

“I think one of our biggest accomplishments is the fact that we have something of a structure now,” Martin said. We have policies and procedures in place. There's a clearly defined line of authority, delegated to the committee by chief and council to implement and enforce housing policies.”

Another benefit, she said, is that there is less confusion in the housing office about how and when things get done as well as whom to go to with requests.

“A by-product of better process is that for the first time in 17 years, Tsleil-Waututh Nation is eligible for new social housing,” she said “We're building 12 units this year.”

That includes an eight-unit townhouse with four one-bedroom and four two-bedroom units, a duplex with two three-bedroom units and two single family houses; one four-bedroom and a five-bedroom.

“Some of our challenges mainly have to do with the growing pains associated with any change,” Martin said. “Practicing patience, the committee can see how things can improve even more, but that everything takes time. It's hard not to rush when we know that if we take the time to set things up properly, the pay-off will be huge for our Nation and the generations to come.”

Snaw-naw-AS committee seeks new beginnings

Snaw-naw-as housing committee formed sometime ago to address the needs and issues arising from its membership and the current housing status.

A Snaw-naw-as report to the community said: “From that era to this new age we've seen significant changes, and housing increases along with more families moving back to the reserve. Our housing committee sees the need for more policies to better assist in the fair delivery of services to the membership, currently as seen in the past this committee operates in an ad-hoc state in which the meetings arise out of necessity.

“Breaking out of such a cycle, the housing committee and its members seek the need for change and a more improved way of handling band housing affairs. After the Housing Governance workshop held in Snuneymuxw in 2008, hosted by Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council, the Snaw-naw-as administration and housing committee sought the need for more governing structures in order for a more sound delivery and outcomes related to housing matters.

The housing committee is currently working with a consultant, with funding from NmTC, to develop a housing policy, the committee's terms of reference and accompanying policies.

Through more structure and understanding of why the need for such policies are being implemented, the committee feels stronger in the sense that it will work more cohesively and will be stronger in maintaining its current housing affairs while gaining a better understanding of First Nations housing as a whole.

The housing committee is restructuring itself and enabling more community involvement by adding three or four new members to its committee.

Snuneymuxw committee getting to work

Snuneymuxw First Nation set up a housing committee last year and is looking for a new member with preference given to an off-reserve band member.

The committee is based on the idea that in order to operate a sound housing program, a housing governance structure has to be in place. The committee will also develop agreements and policies and generally oversee housing operations.

When at full strength, the committee is made up of seven appointed voting community members as well as Snuneymuxw’s housing coordinator and the councillor who holds the housing portfolio.

Another big job for the committee is developing a five-year capital housing plan.

The committee gets its authority directly from the chief and council which also defines its responsibilities, make-up and method of operating. Those are defined in a written terms of reference.

Stz’uminus housing board re-established

Stz’uminus chief and council has thrown its full support behind the formation of a new housing board to tackle the wide range of shelter issues facing our community.

The new board was formed following a day-long workshop on Sept. 17 hosted by the housing section of Stz’uminus’ public works and capital projects department. A requirement for sitting on the new board was that members attended the introductory meeting.

Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council funded the workshop’s facilitator, Glenn Lawson. NmTC has supported similar projects at Snaw-naw-as, Tsleil-Waututh, Snuneymuxw and other member nations.

The information session focused on details about the formation of the board. There was also a presentation on on-reserve housing including various capital housing programs, housing operations and housing governance.

The new housing board was seen as the first and most important step in getting housing back on track in the community. A former housing board was disbanded two years ago.