For the first time, 1-bedroom units will be purpose-built for Indigenous people in Waterloo region

The federal government is investing $7.1 million to create approximately 74 new affordable housing units in Waterloo region. They will be built especially for Indigenous people and youth — communities that have been typically unserved.

Previously, affordable housing has been for Indigenous families — not individuals

KW Urban Native Wigwam Project, located in this building on Frederick Street, is one of two organizations that will benefit form a $7.1 million affordable housing investment from the federal government. (KW Urban Native Wigwam Project/Facebook)

An investment from the federal government will help build more affordable housing units for Indigenous people and youth in Waterloo region.

Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, Ahmed Hussen, made the funding announcement Thursday morning.

He said the $7.1 million will pay for two housing projects: one for KW Urban Native Wigwam Project and the other, for OneRoof Youth Services.

We need to be intentional in providing the kind of housing that they need," Regional Chair Karen Redman said.

As the demand for more affordable housing grows in the region, Indigenous communities and youth are often at a disadvantage when accessing affordable housing. Approximately 74 units will be constructed between the two projects.

Housing has 'just been for families'

Of the 30 units overseen by KW Urban Native Wigwam Project in Cambridge, 16 will be specifically for Indigenous women and their children. Executive director Lee Ann Hundt said the rest will be single-bedroom units.

"One of the biggest barriers we face, besides discrimination, is that we haven't been able to provide one-bedroom units — ever," she said.

"This is going to include a lot of singles that we haven't been able to support before because our housing has just been for families."

Local leaders and Liberal MPs joined Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, Ahmed Hussen, Thursday morning for a federal funding announcement that will help create 74 new affordable housing units for Indigenous communities and youth. (Submitted by: Audrey-Anne Coulombe)

Hundt said the KW Urban Native Wigwam Project has over 250 people on its wait-list — which operates separately from the region's affordable housing wait-list — and the additional units will help address the growing need in Cambridge.

Affordable housing for youth almost 'non existent'

OneRoof Youth Services will be looking after 44 new units in Kitchener, with 25 allocated for homeless youth, 15 for youth that need mental health or addiction supports and four units for Indigenous youth.

Executive director Sandy Dietrich-Bell, said affordable housing in the region for youth is almost non-existent.

"Landlords, when they have options as to who to rent to, a young person is not high on their list — and certainly not a young person that comes to them with some challenges," she said.

These two new builds are part of the Region of Waterloo's affordable housing strategy to build 2,500 Homes in five years.

The federal government's investment is part of the Rapid Housing Initiative and the Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy program. The Region of Waterloo said in a news release it's contributing $3 million toward the KW Urban Native Wigwam Project build.

Completion of both projects is expected by the end of 2022.