Update on Chawathil First Nation Housing
Aaron reflects on his role as a council member.
In October 2022, I started overseeing the housing projects for Chawathil First Nation. My usual work was in finance and economic development, but I was asked to step up to manage our housing needs, and I accepted the challenge.
We were starting from scratch—no Housing Manager, no repair plan for our homes, and no clear plan to build new ones.
I spent the next few months talking to various agencies and experts, including Indigenous Services Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the First Nations Health Authority, to learn about best practices and funding.
We hired a Housing Manager in November 2022. By December, I understood enough about our funding options to start planning. We put together an application to fix 11 homes and mapped out a plan to fix all 89 homes in our community. For each home, we needed a repair request from the resident, a health inspection, a home inspection, and a quote from a contractor. We submitted our first repair application on January 18th, 2023.
At the same time, we asked for help from Indigenous Services Canada to develop a 5-Year Housing Strategy to guide our future work.
A few months later, we applied to repair 12 more homes and hired another contractor. We’ve finished repairs on 15 homes and are fixing 8 more right now. So far, we’ve worked on 25% of our homes.
We're about to apply to fix another 15 homes. My goal is to have all our community's homes repaired by the time my council term ends in September 2025.
We're also looking into adding new houses. We're pushing to get more affordable housing for our 650 members.
In 2023, we tried applying to the CMHC for new houses but didn't get it. However, we quickly learned from what was missing and sent in a much better application.
We're planning to submit another application in April 2024. This could mean up to 30 new houses and around 96 new beds for our members. It's still just an application, but we're really hoping to add these new homes to our community.
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Running the housing department is the hardest task on my plate, which is really saying something given I also handle finance and economic development. Aside from that, I've managed to grow a podcast from a simple setup in a spare room to a full-fledged show featuring notable guests, all while completing law school.
Housing matters a lot to people. We're trying to fix problems that have been around for 40 years. Over the years, folks have seen council members and housing managers come, see the problems, and then disappear without doing much.
When we first promised we'd make changes and get results quickly, people were skeptical and not very welcoming. They'd heard it all before and didn't believe us.
However, I'm happy to say that things are starting to change. People are beginning to see that we're serious and that changes are happening. It's not happening as fast as we'd like, but the trust is starting to build back up.