Yale First Nation has launched the BC First Nation Housing Mentorship Program to help other indigenous bands in their housing programs, headed by its housing manager Crystal Sedore.
“It’s a program that is being developed to prevent this drain of limited cash from bands so we don’t have to hire expensive consultants and outside agencies and organizations to help us with housing programs,” said Sedore.
Sedore said she has received a lot of calls and emails expressing interest.
Sedore envisions that the program will host a mentorship program, bringing together housing experts, creating a database of information that First Nations can access free-of-charge.
Mentors can visit bands to help them or do it through the phone in areas such as paperwork, funding, environment assessments, surveys and applications to the government.
Sedore explains that a band housing program is multi-faceted. She describes part of her job as similar to landlords. She collects rent, does inspections and ensures tenants follow housing policies.
Sedore also manages new construction and land-use planning, and is currently overseeing the construction of energy-efficient homes in Ruby Creek and Dogwood Valley, and also renovations with funding from the federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).
Sedore said in her 20 years in First Nations communities, she has noticed that bands often do not have the capacity that they need to run their housing program. The first challenge comes down to finding funding for a housing manager.
Sedore also emphasized that bands need to have their own housing policies.
“Otherwise, everything that goes on in band housing is determined by the Indian Act, and there are a set of housing policies in the Indian Act, but they were written many, many years ago, so they’re very obsolete,” said Sedore.
In her experience too, she has seen bands compete with each other and refuse to share with each other.
“So this is breaking down those silos and saying, ‘You know what? Let’s work together,’ ” said Sedore.
The program is funded by INAC’s On-Reserve Housing Innovation Fund. According to their website, the purpose is to “support First Nation communities for approaches to on-reserve housing management and governance that are innovative and beneficial to the entire community.”
This week, Sedore is attending a conference in Vancouver and speaking on this topic. She is also starting to build the database with information from housing managers and leaders.
Her short-term goals include developing public awareness, learning from experts and identifying bands struggling with a high turnover in housing managers or have floundering housing programs.