New partnership calls on donors to build accessible housing in Oneida Nation

A local non-profit has teamed up with Oneida Nation of the Thames to build accessible housing on the First Nation.

The Imagine Build hopes to begin construction in the spring

Adrian Chrisjohn is the Chief of the Oneida Nation of the Thames. (Submitted by Chief Adrian Chrisjohn)

A local non-profit has teamed up with Oneida Nation of the Thames to build accessible housing on the First Nation. 

The Imagine Build partnership is asking for donations to fund housing for families experiencing overcrowding or members who don't live on the First Nation but want to come home. There are currently 47 applicants on a waitlist.   

"Unfortunately, overcrowding is a real issue in our community," said Chrisjohn. 

"We have awesome, awesome grandmothers and aunties that are willing to help out their children and sometimes raise grandchildren. It's in our culture, it's in our traditions to do that. But obviously, when the house doesn't suit taking on another family, then it becomes just not sustainable or safe." 

Oneida Nation of the Thames Chief Adrian Chrisjohn tells London Morning about The Imagine Project, which aims to build accessible housing on the First Nation. 6:30

Financing a mortgage can be one of the biggest hurdles to building houses on a First Nation. 

Usually, said Chrisjohn, a Band Council must sign on as a guarantor for the loan amount because the Indian Act disables banks from taxing or seizing property on reserves. Budgets are typically limited. 

Imagine Build aims to raise $350,000 to help put eligible applicants into homes. Chrisjohn said the hope is to begin construction this spring on First Nation-owned land where there is water and sewer connectivity.

There are four lots set aside for the project. The houses will be designed with accessibility in mind, with two to three bedrooms each. 

While homeownership is the ultimate goal, Oneida is looking at the possibility of subsidizing rent for the homes as well. 

"We know that a lot of families in our community struggle," said Chrisjohn. 

"There's just not a lot of jobs or opportunities. The Nation is the largest employer in the community and quite often people have to travel outside the community to London or St. Thomas or surrounding municipalities for work. So we're trying to help families as opposed to putting them into huge debt that they just can't afford and sustainable."  

Donations for Imagine Build can be made through the partnership's website

"People really do want to help," added Chrisjohn. "I think this is an initiative that people can really buy into and see where their donations go."