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

BC Ambulance Crews prepare to evacuate a sick Greenwood boy by helicopter on Friday, Feb. 26. Photo: Submitted
Greenwood boy taken to hospital by BC Ambulance helicopter

Greenwood volunteer firefighters helped prepare the chopper’s landing

Sylvain Fabi, Canada’s chief negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty, joined a number of government and Indigenous government stakeholders for a virtual town hall on Feb. 24, 2021, to update the state of the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. Trevor Crawley photo/Zoom screenshot
Indigenous input key to Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Ecosystem function included in negotiations along with flood management and power generation priorities

Midway RCMP are continuing to investigate a recent burglary near Westbridge, B.C. File photo
Mounties looking for suspect in Boundary burglary

Investigators believe the suspect was driving a Jeep Liberty with a busted side mirror

Lawyers for three Grand Forks Fire/Rescue members denied any wrongdoing against former firefighter Leslie Cleverly, who in January filed a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit against the defendants as well as their former Fire Chief and the City of Grand Forks. File photo
Grand Forks firefighters respond to former colleague’s lawsuit alleging conspiracy

The Supreme Court in Kelowna has not fixed a date for trial

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read