By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It’s far too early to tell if the investments earmarked for Indigenous housing in last week’s 2022 federal budget will be able to solve Kahnawake’s housing shortage, but with the federal government setting aside billions for housing in Indigenous communities some hope the answer could be coming soon.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Chief responsible for the file said it’s too early to say exactly how those investments might affect the community at this point, but that the investment probably won’t address the needs facing many Indigenous communities, including Kahnawake.
“The Kahnawake housing unit is not aware how it will impact the community at this time,” Ryan Montour said after the government committed $4.8 billion over the next seven years to housing in Indigenous communities, a sum roughly one-tenth of what the Assembly of First Nations estimated was needed to solve the housing crisis in many Indigenous communities.
“I would agree with the Assembly of First Nations in terms of how the federal government addresses housing in First Nations communities,” Montour said. “First Nations always seem to be second-class citizens when it comes to housing.”
Montour said the community is in desperate need of new housing, social housing and rent-equity homes are both in high demand and low supply, to look after the community members who are living in cramped, multigenerational housing that may or may not be responding to their needs.
“We did the statistics and we need 138 units at this time,” Montour said. As of last fall, 51 people remained on the waitlist for social housing in Kahnawake, Montour said, and that number is just too high, he said.
“Obviously, it’s not enough at this point, but as chiefs, what we can do is simply give direction and the direction we have given the Housing Unit is `do what you have to do,’ and we will allocate every resource we can towards that goal. The end goal is a better housing outcome for the community and for the people who live here,” Montour said.
In a statement last week, the federal government’s Indigenous Services department issued statement saying the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous housing situations are “immense” but that they are committed to closing it.
“Canada’s National Housing Strategy identifies a safe and secure place to live as a human right that all people in this country should have. And unfortunately, the housing gaps for First Nations,
Inuit and Metis communities are immense,” said federal Indigenous Services minister Patty Hajdu. “The federal government is committed to working with partners to close these gaps. The new investments in Budget 2022 are an important step forward. I am committed to getting these funds to communities and partners as quickly as possible so that the human right to housing is realized for all Indigenous Peoples in this country.”