(Nelson Breaker stands by the site where his home is being built on the Siksika Nation. He said his dream of owning a home in Siksika has come true. Photo: Brandi Morin/APTN)
APTN National News
SIKSIKA NATION, ALTA — The Siksika Nation east of Calgary celebrated the construction of the first on-reserve, individually owned home in Alberta on Friday.
The nation is utilizing funds through the First Nations Market Housing Fund (FNMHF) which assists First Nations to gain access to housing loans on reserve and settlement lands.
“It’s something that is needed by our reserve, it’s something that is needed by our members,” said Siksika Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman.
“I said let’s get it done. And we got it done.”
The initiative, established in 2008, was started through the Kelowna Accord and is the only program to survive after the Harper government failed to pass the Paul Martin led agreement.
The Canadian government made a one-time investment of $300 million for the FNMHF.
The investment, now held in trust, has the potential to create $3 billion in investments in on-reserve housing, on settlement lands and lands set-aside for First Nations across Canada.
Siksika Nation member Nelson Breaker is the first resident to receiving financing through the program.
Construction began on his 2820 square foot home two weeks ago.
Breaker said it’s a dream come true.
“This building process took 9 months to get going,” said Breaker. “But now they’re making my dream into a reality.”
Breaker, his wife and children have lived in Calgary for the past 40 years and have never owned their own home. He said he’s happy to be able to finally move back home to Siksika as a new homeowner.
“Plus I’m starting to set roots for my grand-kids. This will be my grand-kids home, my kids and my family’s. It’s been a long journey and I’m so excited.”
Nation members have the ability to choose the type of home they want to build, unlike the cookie cutter models seen on most reservations across Canada.
Breakers home will feature a walk out basement, hot tub and wrap around deck. It’s made more affordable through the backing of the FNHMP, while also partnering with the Bank of Montreal.
“I want people to feel what I’m feeling right now. I’m so proud,” said Breaker who hopes to move in at the end of December.
The Siksika Nation was hit hard by the 2013 Bow River flood.
Approximately 100 homes were destroyed and more than 1,000 people were forced from their homes.
Some community members are still living in hotels while they wait for additional provincial government flood recovery money.
There are currently 500 people on the housing wait list in Siksika, and in total three community members have been approved for mortgages through the FNHMP.
Chief Yellow Old Woman sees the FNHMP as an opportunity to help community members get back on their feet.
“We are looking to the FNHMP as a long-term partner and we are grateful for the opportunity to create a variety of housing options for our citizens. The Siksika Nation sees the home as a sacred space, a place for families to gather and celebrate who we are as Peoples!” concluded Chief Yellow Old Woman.
“Your leadership is looking after your people, to build houses all over this beautiful country you have here,” said FNHMP chair of the trustees John Beaucage.
“Siksika has worked hard for this. I’d like to come out for the 100th or maybe even the 500th home built.”