Siksika First Nation

“Just follow your dreams, if you want something you go get it and it takes a lot of support from other people. Don’t give up. You have to keep going no matter what. There is also something that you are going to run into. You just have to push through, and you will get it.” – Jonie Big Old Man

“This has been such an amazing milestone in our lives.” – Blaine Big Old Man

Jonie and Blaine Big Old Man took advantage of Siksika Nation’s First Nations Market Housing Fund Housing Program to purchase their own home. The couple admit that it can be a daunting experience yet encourage others to stick to their goals as you will eventually arrive at your destination.

The 1438 square foot house Jonie and Blaine decided to purchase was built by Nelson Homes in High River and delivered by truck to Siksika Nation. Jonie said they decided to purchase their home, and to go through the ownership program because they could not get approval for on-reserve housing.

“I thought it was time and we needed to do something and find something on our own because we tried with Siksika Housing, but we were always denied application. So, I thought there has to be another way. I did some online research and Nelson Homes came up,” said Jonie.

“We have been waiting 10 years, even over 10 years to even qualify for a house through Housing; we never met the requirements, or we have always been at the bottom of the list. So, we thought we need to think of something else and we thought of those other units where you are basically repairing a home. But we thought we might as well go brand new if we are going to go that way,” said Blaine.

The FNMHF program is a partnership with the Bank of Montreal and was approved by Siksika Nation Chief and Council in 2012 as an alternative for Siksika Nation members, who qualify, to acquire a home on the nation through a loan.

Nelson Breaker is a senior accountant for the Siksika Nation Tribal Administration and is the Market Housing Administrator for the FNMHF program at Siksika Nation. He has 25 years of experience in finances and was the first person in Alberta to get a house built and backed by the program back in 2015.

Nelson notes that through the program, applicants can apply for financial backing to build a new home on the First Nation or have renovations completed to their existing home. To date, 114 have applied for financial backing at Siksika Nation and 10 applicants have been accepted. “The other people did not qualify because they were not ready. They were not ready with their budgeting, their credit check, and their job. These are the kind of things that we have to work on. Through credit counselling, we work with them for a whole year to get their credit score back up there, to the levels that BMO wants so they can qualify for a housing loan,” said Nelson.

Nelson has been through the process and knows it can seem like a lot of red tape, and they are looking at ways to improve and streamline the process for new applicants. “We are trying to speed up the process through BMO, see where all the gaps are through the First Nations Market Housing. We are getting feedback from our nation members to see where the red tape is so others can have smooth process,” said Nelson.

The Big Old Mans say the process hasn’t been easy and are thankful to Nelson for assisting them through it. “It has been up and down because most of the time you are doing things on your own, but Nelson was there to guide us, ‘okay this is what you need to do’, so it was just basic step by step of trying to … cause you have to phone the power and the natural gas and utility companies. You have to request for a new service and that is what takes really long too,” said Jonie.

Prior to moving into their new home, the Big Old Mans were residing with Jonie’s grandmother. The site they chose for their new home is located nearby and in the area where they grew up. The location also allows them to save money in the long run by being in a spot that is accessible to the community water system, and a spot that does not require a lot of power poles to reach; cost savings in the home loan.

Jonie and Blaine look forward to the future when their housing loan is paid off and they can retire in comfort. They hope to pay off their 25-year loan sooner by taking advantage of time they will be allowed to make accelerated payments or make a lump sum payment.

Jonie said they see this as an investment and encourage other to consider going this route to get a home as well. The couple estimates that a one month housing loan payment is equal to what they would be paying for rent somewhere else. “We thought of renting in Strathmore but why rent when you can use that money towards your own home.”

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