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Owning their own home on-reserve - it was a dream Jerry and Gladys Christiansen thought would never come true. “We did not want to live in a band house,” said Jerry. “We wanted to build something different – a house that was energy-efficient and that was our own.”
So, when the Lac La Ronge Band began a home ownership program on-reserve, Jerry and Gladys knew it was their chance to be near family and to raise their children in their home community. “We were really happy to return to the reserve and build what suited our needs,” said Jerry. “This wasn't possible until the band home ownership program started.”
Innovative thinking and decisive action by the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in northern Saskatchewan has given families, like the Christiansens, the home of their dreams. At the same time, the band has developed its own innovative way to take control of its housing needs.
The band council in Lac La Ronge knew there was a better way to deal with the housing crisis on its reserve. Councillors knew that establishing a successful, sustainable housing program that featured home ownership was a possible solution.
A visit to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte reserve in Ontario confirmed to the band that market-based housing was a reality and a successful approach. It was an approach that would not only assist with housing needs, but would transform the community by letting its members invest and build equity.
In 2004, the band launched its own home-ownership strategy after “much community consultation and a lot of hard work to make the policies and mechanisms realistic and workable for our diverse multi-community band,” said Kevin McLeod, co-ordinator of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band's Home Ownership Program.
Lac La Ronge found support for its home-ownership program from the private sector, as well as from government. The band's housing department was able to take advantage of a program offered by the Bank of Montreal to help First Nations build and mortgage homes. The bank went further by forming an agreement with the Lac La Ronge Band to assist specifically with its home-ownership program. In addition, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) provided $1.7 million to the band to assist with the launch of this program.
The benefits were immediate. Within months, 50 members applied for loans to buy or renovate their existing homes, while others opted to build a new home for their families. This, in turn, has led to more income for the band which they can put back into housing, or other programs needed by community members.
“These opportunities are helping more people stay in their communities, close to their families, rather than having to look for work somewhere else,” says Kevin McLeod.
And Jerry and Gladys Christiansen are proof. They are living in their community. They have a house that suits their needs. As Jerry says, they are “pleased we can build some equity.” After years of wanting to return to their reserve - their family and their culture – they are home.
Lac La Ronge Indian Band Population: 8,200 (on and off-reserve)
Number of units: In 2006, three homes were constructed. In 2007, 10 new homes are expected to be built.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
BMO Bank of Montreal
Prince Albert Grand Council (blueprints and inspections)
Supporting policies: INAC housing policy, 1996 On-Reserve Housing Policy
Financing vehicles/arrangements: BMO Bank of Montreal On-Reserve Housing Loan Program, Lac La Ronge Home Ownership Loan Program
Home ownership training: Various resources and staff are available to offer training as needed.
Contact: Kevin McLeod,
Coordinator of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band's
Home Ownership Program
Telephone: (306) 425-2884; Office: (306) 527-4997