ARCHIVED - Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

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Housing Program Building a Better Quality of Life

For a single mother moving back to the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, the prospect of finding a rental unit she could afford was worrisome. However, she was thrilled with the three-bedroom bungalow she now rents. "It is good, clean affordable housing," she said enthusiastically. In fact, the unit is one of the award-winning, energy-efficient, high-quality social housing units the band has built over the past dozen years. "I have never seen this quality of social housing on a First Nations reserve. The council should be congratulated for having these homes available to band members who are in financial difficulty," she said.

The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte have achieved great success with their housing program. It not only features home ownership and social housing, but also energy-efficient home construction.

It was not an overnight achievement. Their success has been won through hard work, listening to band members, learning from their mistakes and gaining community support. Through inspired leadership, the program has stayed in the forefront of leading-edge, energy-efficient construction technology.

"Having control over our own resources," according to Chris Maracle, Director of the band's housing program, "was a key factor in being able to put our innovative housing program on the energy-efficient path." The band was able to improve housing by adding finished basements, high-efficiency gas furnaces and heat-recovery ventilation systems. Residents saw their energy bills decrease up to 40 per cent. The band went further and established a construction crew that became R-2000 certified. This allowed them to build homes using leading-edge, energy-efficient construction standards.

Since then, the housing department has collected numerous awards, including Canada's only national energy-efficiency award for housing. By 2006, the housing department had built 60 energy-efficient units that were either rented or sold to band members. These units include five "granny flats" for Elders.

Of the nearly 800 homes in Tyendinaga, about 375 are mortgaged, 120 are rental units, and 305 are funded independently or owned by band members. In fact, home ownership has been so successful on the reserve, that nearly 85 per cent of all homes are owned by band members. In the R-2000 subdivision, there are now 51 units including triplex, four-plex, and three-bedroom bungalows, and houses designed for people with physical disabilities.

And the economic benefits of the housing program are visible. The builders, carpenters, painters and electricians are in such demand that they all work nearly year-round - on and off the reserve. The housing policy itself helps stimulate the local economy, bringing more money into the reserve. It has helped lower-income families own their own homes. If hard times hit, the program is flexible enough to allow mortgages to be renegotiated.

The word has spread across Canada about the band's innovative housing program. The housing department regularly transfers its knowledge about the program and how to economically use R-2000 construction techniques.

"We show other First Nations through presentations, videos and our publications that home ownership programs work," says Mr. Maracle. "We share our belief that these programs have great potential to develop healthy communities and social and economic opportunities."

Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory Population: 2,200
Housing Asset Value: $25,000,000
Number of units: 800 homes: 375 under mortgage, 120 rental units, 305 owned by occupants
Key partners:
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Health Canada
Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation
BMO Bank of Montreal
Loyalist College First Nations Technical Institute, Belleville
Ontario Secretariat for Aboriginal Affairs
Supporting policies: MBQ Rental Regime Policy, MBQ Housing Construction Standards and Guidelines
Financing vehicles/arrangements: BMO Bank of Montreal On-Reserve Housing Loan Program
Home ownership training: First Nation provides half-day orientation session for new home buyers

Contact: Chris Maracle,
MBQ, Director,
Housing, Parks and Property Maintenance
(613) 396-3424, ext. 105


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