Changes at the First Nations Market Housing Fund

May 08, 2024

Every year, Staff and Trustees of the First Nations Market Housing Fund (FNMHF) meet for a strategic planning session to inform a five-year rolling Business Plan for review by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Minister. Following the 2024 session in Akwesasne from April 16 to 17, this entry highlights some exciting changes at the Fund as outlined in the 2024-2028 Business Plan Summary.

Origin Story

To understand the character of the Fund, it’s important to know that its mandate emerged from the Kelowna Accord of 2005. This was an overarching agreement between five National Indigenous Organizations (NIOs) representing the interests of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis; the federal government; and the provinces and territories. It may be characterized as an attempt to “close the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous living conditions and outcomes in Canada through a working relationship.

While the Accord did not survive a change in government and political will shortly after the Accord was signed, addressing housing shortages on reserve was among the health, education, infrastructure, economic opportunities, accountability, and relationship mechanisms slated for investment.

The Fund’s structure echoes the Accord’s nature on two fundamental levels. Like the Accord, it is a shared responsibility that draws on the strengths of all parties to create positive change. The Fund is governed by a Board of nine Trustees from First Nations, the Government of Canada, and the financial community – and is managed by the CMHC. 

Secondly, it is driven by the improvement of socio-economic outcomes. The Fund supports and sustains loan-based housing programs, thereby contributing to First Nations communities’ social welfare, economic development, and civic improvement.

Although the eventual restoration of First Nations affairs to First Nations was not an intended outcome of the Accord, it is arguable that the spirit of the Fund as a self-sustaining non-profit anticipated autonomous First Nations control.

An Evolving Approach to the Mandate

In the early days of the mandate, the Fund fell short of ambitious home-building targets. However, the Fund has enacted its core traditional values of love, humility, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, and truth by committing to continuous improvement that best serves the interests of First Nations communities. Learning, listening, seeking informed support, and putting communities’ needs first have spurred significant change.

With every recent five-year plan, the Fund has recorded ambitious new targets to increase on reserve homeownership significantly. The 2024-2028 plan outlines organizational transfer and transformation progress, four directions supporting the original mandate, and distinct actions supporting those objectives.

Reform / Transformational Change 

Informed by decades of research and input from First Nations leadership and communities, Fund Trustees and Staff have recognized that both the products and services offered by the Fund needed to evolve. To do this, Trustees need to have the authority to make these changes.

Exciting and radical work toward transformational change began in 2021, with substantial efforts to build the business case for the Transfer of Care and Control of the Fund to First Nations in 2023. These proposed reforms are meant to give the Fund more autonomy from the government and improve its ability to serve the needs of First Nations.

Pathways to Community

Outcome and evidence-based planning have long been at the heart of what the Fund does. However, directly supporting potential First Nations homeowners has become a vital focus of the Fund. The new vision statement, ‘First Nations Prosperity through Homeownership‘, conveys this new emphasis.

A robust investment has been made in marketing and communications strategies beyond explaining what the Fund does to engage with community members directly. The new website expands available resources, adding more tools for First Nations rights holders to build their homeownership capacity. The Fund is now expanding its presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube, where Indigenous people and partners are.

A Membership Voice

As the Fund continues to value relationships and opportunities with First Nations, it offers more flexibility in how First Nations engage. For example, First Nations can access the Capacity Development (CD) product without activating the Credit Enhancement (CE) product. The Fund is also advocating for a membership model to facilitate increased engagement and collaboration between the Fund and a broader spectrum of First Nations. 

Stability and Growth 

The Fund continues to offer its core Capacity Development (CD) and Credit Enhancement (CE) products while exploring alternative homeownership pathways that may significantly impact First Nations communities and communicating more directly with potential homeowners. 

Creating a pathway for First Nations to have a stronger voice and investment through a membership model, the Fund also continues to build its capacity by forming partnership agreements with like-minded organizations. Resilient and determined leadership, supported by solid research and informed allyship, powers a self-sustaining non-profit that communities can be proud of. 

With a new people-focused approach and steps towards autonomous control, First Nations individuals are poised to feel a sense of ownership over an organization founded for Indigenous prosperity and wellbeing.