Sandy Bay chief says community needs $76M to improve housing

In order to deal with the housing shortage on the Sandy Bay First Nation, the chief says it needs 411 homes just to get people off the waiting list. A federal government report says Manitoba housing on First Nations is the worst in the country, and Sandy Bay is just one example.

Chief Lance Roulette says shortage of decent housing means as many as 26 people live in 1 unit

Sandy Bay Chief Lance Roulette says his community needs 411 homes just to get people off the waiting list for housing. (CBC)

The chief of Sandy Bay First Nation says he needs at least 411 housing units to deal with the list of people in his community waiting for a place to live.

Sandy Bay is just one of many Manitoba First Nations dealing with a housing crisis — a federal report says it would take $1.9 billion to address the First Nations housing issues in Manitoba.

The federal government budget allocates only $150 million dollars across the country on housing on reserves in 2016.

Sandy Bay First Nation needs $76 million for housing, Chief Lance Roulette said.

"We have about 477 people on the housing list, and that continues to grow every month," he said.

RAW: Chief Lance Roulette talks about sharing a home with 25 other people

6 years ago
Duration 1:32
Chief Lance Roulette of Sandy Bay First Nation says his community alone needs 76-million dollars to address the housing problems on the reserve. An internal federal government report says housing on Manitoba First Nations is the worst in the country, and would cost close to 2-billion dollars to fix. 1:32

Those people often end up living with other family members, and it's not unusual to have two or three families living in one house, he said.

"We were living with the parents and there was 26 of us living inside the unit, so it was a hectic schedule. You know, people having to schedule in when we got to use our washrooms," Roulette said.

Of the 115 homes destroyed by fire in the past 20 years, only 34 have been replaced, and 28 housing units — trailers and houses — have been condemned. 

"The condemned units really cause a strain on the family, especially health-wise. There are some issues that relate to mould, especially during wintertime. The housing department does it's best to try and winterize the units. Most of the time it's met with failure as a result of how dilapidated the house is by then," Roulette said. 

A new house in turnkey condition complete with appliances costs $165,000, he said. 

Roulette said he managed to get 10 housing units through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Section 95 program for on-reserve housing. He hopes to get 20 more next year.

The program gives direct loans to First Nations for the construction, purchase and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing on-reserve. Roulette said the capital housing program in Aboriginal Affairs was eliminated in 1996.

He wants to know what the new structure will be under Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

Roulette wants to know if it will be similar to the old capital housing program or just another version of the CMHC program.

Without some change, the backlog of people who need housing will keep growing, Roulette said.