In 2008, the Conservative government created the First Nations Market Housing Fund, a $300 million plan to create 25,000 new and privately owned homes on reserves by 2018. The goal of the fund was to increase the financial security and overall well-being of thousands of families in desperate need of assistance. As of today, that fund has successfully created 99 homes.
The little piggies at the Conservative Party came up with an ambitious solution to a generations-old problem. Sadly, reality huffed and puffed and exposed the plan for the piece of crap it was. “Frankly, it’s taken us a little longer than anticipated” said John Beaucage, Chairman of the First Nations Market Housing Fund’s Board of Trustees, in what has to be the understatement of the year. What anyone with a grasp of the definition of the word “frankly” would have said instead was “this was a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, and a complete failure of yet another over-simplified broad-stroke solution that has let down thousands of aboriginals due to poor and naïve planning.”
A 2012 evaluation by the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada chewed into the Fund for being not only ineffective but also largely unnecessary. They cited that there was no evidence that the Fund would meet its objectives, and no any definitive proof that it was addressing a specific need.
The report did note at the end that “support for market-based initiatives generally is consistent with the Government of Canada’s priorities, and AANDC should continue to play an integral role in this regard.” In other words, this was the kind of trumped up supposedly fiscally responsible, market based solution that, while not necessarily addressing the problem, looked good politically for Prime Minister Harper and his Party.
The 2012 report concluded with some damning words, stating that “this review found that there is no evidence of tangible results to date as only two homes have been constructed using the Fund’s credit enhancement mechanism, and there has been no verification of clear impacts stemming from the Fund’s capacity building initiatives.” To be fair, that was in 2012. Since then, the Fund, which, through additional investments, is now $344 million, has created 97 houses. Perhaps, as Mr. Beaucage promised, “things are going to get better.” But even if the Fund’s creation of houses grows 48 times from now to 2018 as it did from 2011 to 2015, it will still mean only 4,704 houses being built. Good luck guys! You can do it.
The reason for the pathetic failure was that the housing plan was built with the structural integrity of an underachieving kid’s pillow fort. The Aboriginal Affairs report hammers home the point that, while the intentions of the Fund were indeed noble, there was massive neglect of the early stages of development necessary to make such a plan work. Huge sums of money were wasted because the Canadian Government tried to build a mansion of a housing plan on foundations that did not exist.
The necessary knowledge of marketplace and mortgage regulations was obviously lacking in these communities where social housing has long been provided as a necessity, and where very few have experience with home ownership. There wasn’t a well thought out adjustment period. Those who could have benefitted from the Fund were thrown into an alien system where minimal effort was made to explain the rules to them. The government failed to create “transitional mechanisms to prepare willing communities for homeownership and reduce the reliance on social housing need particular emphasis in short-term policy planning for longer-term results.” Or, in more relatable terms, the Conservative government of Canada, our long time ruling party who prides themselves on fiscal responsibility and efficiency, has the foresight and effectiveness of the underpants gnomes from South Park.
The administration of $300 million investment plan, costs taxpayers roughly $3.6 million a year, in case you needed a reason to hit your head against a wall today.
The Canadian Government has noble intentions, but they succeeded about as well as Homer Simpson building a Barbecue pit. Why did we fail our attempt to solve the housing problems facing First Nations? Because these problems cannot be solved in one big, uninformed step. Because this lofty goal of private home ownership was catered to a political agenda. Because attention was only paid to the logistics of implementation abysmally late. Because imposing a system on people has consequences.