New townhouse project 'a start' to help ease Six Nations housing crisis, says councillor
The five new units may be ready by end of year. More than 400 people are on a wait list for housing, however
Five living spaces for families on Six Nations of the Grand River are being built as a way to help solve the demand for affordable housing in the First Nations community near Brantford, Ont.
Onondaga 1 is a collaborative project between Habitat for Humanity and several local organizations that will see a townhouse with five units finished later this year.
"We don't have enough housing for the people who we already have on reserve. With the flux of people coming back, it's been really difficult to keep up with the demand," says Lily-Anne Mt. Pleasant, acting director at Six Nations Housing. "With [the] cost of living rising in big cities… we're seeing a lot of people wanting to come back home."
Mt. Pleasant was one of several people in attendance for the recent groundbreaking of the project, which is supported by Six Nations of the Grand River Economic Development Trust, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Habitat for Humanity Hamilton and Habitat for Humanity Heartland Ontario.
Building of the homes began in December. Completing the foundation before the ground froze was essential if the project is to be completed by the end of the summer. The goal is to have community members in the new homes by next winter, Mt. Pleasant said.
The location – near 4th Line and Chiefswood Road — was chosen due to the proximity to Ohsweken, where many shops and services are located in Six Nations.
"We don't have a lot of public transportation down here. It's really instrumental [that people are] able to live in the village," said Mt. Pleasant.
There's a wait list of 400 people for housing in the community, she added, predominantly made up of single mothers, small families, seniors and young professionals. Sometimes the wait can be 10 years long, she said.
Need for a 'permanent solution'
Greg Frazer, a councillor with the Six Nations elected council, says the new project is welcome but more needs to be done to address housing.
"Even with the help, Six Nations is still in a housing crisis. Five new rental homes is a start but not a permanent solution. There is a lack of funding and a high demand for housing," he said at the Jan. 24 groundbreaking event.
That funding needs to come in part from ISC, which is part of the federal government, he added.
"There seems to be a large disconnect between recognition of our needs compared to what ISC is providing for funding," he said. "We're trying to hold them to their treaty obligations. You know we're not here asking for handouts, we are asking for what is obligated to us for housing and for this community."
Mt. Pleasant added that homelessness continues to exist in the community as well.
"It's not as visible as sometimes it is in the city. People think of homelessness as someone sleeping on the streets and that's not always the case. It could be someone just doesn't have stable housing so they just move from place to place to place," she said. "That's also a problem in itself because then how are they going to get a job if they don't have a stable address?"
Still, she's hopeful partnerships like the one making the housing project possible will help.
"Habitat for Humanity has allowed Six Nations to stretch their limited resources, as they can do more for less being a non-profit. Habitat approached us as they want to not only help their own communities but First Nations communities as well," she said.
The project has cost so far more than $1.5 million and continues to fundraise.
With files from James Chaarani