New build in Ohsweken puts small dent in housing crisis

There are over 400 people waiting for housing on Six Nations but a new build sponsored by Habitat for Humanity Hamilton is helping to put a tiny dent in the overwhelming need.

Six Nations Housing and Habitat for Humanity, along with Six Nations elected councillors, unveiled drawings and the foundation for a new, five-unit townhouse complex in the village off Harold Road on Tuesday.

It’s Six Nations Housing’s hope that the partnership with Habitat for Humanity will help in its quest to provide more homes for community members coming back home, because Six Nations just doesn’t have enough funding to meet the needs of the community.

“We have a crisis here and we need help,” says Lily-Ann Mt. Pleasant, director of Six Nations Housing.

The community is seeing a lot of Six Nations members wanting to return to the reserve.

“With the cost of living rising in big cities, we’re seeing a lot of people wanting to come back home. We’re in a real crisis right now. We don’t have enough housing for the people already on the reserve. With the (influx) of people coming back, it’s been really tough to keep up with that demand. But with partnerships like this…it allows us to stretch our funding, cause we are lacking funding. There isn’t enough to sustain us. Habitat is really instrumental in being able to do more with less.”

Six Nations Housing, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Hamilton and Habitat Heartland, says the new complex, named Onondaga 1, will provide safe and affordable rental options for families at Six Nations.

The build was possible through a donation from the Six Nations Economic Development Trust, along with funding from Indigenous Services Canada.

“We’re well underway (with construction),” said Mt. Pleasant. “We started in December. The foundation’s all done. Luckily we got that all done before the frost hit otherwise we would’ve had to wait until spring.”

Next is framing, she said, and they’re hoping the project will be finished by the end of summer.

Potential tenants would be able to move in to the centrally-located units by Christmas.

“We don’t have a lot of public transportation here, so it’s really instrumental, having people live in the village,” said Mt. Pleasant.

The units are targeting single parents. And with the cost of rent on Six Nations about half of the cost off-reserve, the reserve is attracting a lot of members wanting to return home.

The project has been in the works for about 10 years.

“We’ve got a really good council now,” said Mt. Pleasant. “They were really open when Habitat approached us again. They want to help. I’m hoping this is going to be a very long-lasting relationship that we have.”

The end units are two bedrooms and the middle three are three-bedroom units.

There was a plan to build six of those complexes, said Mt. Pleasant, but having enough land is a big issue, she said, so council and housing are looking at building more medium to high-density units to make maximum use of available land on the reserve.

The majority of those needing housing on the reserve are single, she said.

And there is a lot of homelessness on Six Nations, she said, but it’s less visible than in big cities.

What that means is that people are temporarily staying with friends or relatives, but they don’t have a place of their own.

“They’re living with family. Then you have huge issues with overcrowding.”

That, in turn, hinders their job opportunities, because without a permanent address, it’s hard to get a job, she said.


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