What do housing interns think?

Establishing and supporting First Nations youth to become strong and vibrant housing professionals is widely recognized as key step in improving the quality of housing for First Nations in the future. With this goal in mind, FNHPA sought to partner with CMHC to offer a pilot Housing Internship for Indigenous Youth (HIIY) program. The HIIY program was created to provide Indigenous youth the opportunity to ready themselves for long-term career success in the housing industry and improve their knowledge and skills.

Recently, a group of housing department interns from across the country applied to take the first course in the FNHPA certification program through this CMHC funded initiative.  Of those who applied, 18 were selected by CMHC to take the online course First Nations Housing and Infrastructure which included lessons on History and Legislation, Programs and Funding, Cultural Considerations, Current Developments and Issues, Key Elements of Housing Construction, Infrastructure and Housing Governance.  At the end of the course participants were asked to submit a written assignment that addressed the history of housing in their community, the current state of housing in their community, and consider potential activities or approaches that might improve housing in their community moving forward.

We think there may well be value to current housing professionals in considering the views of the next generation of housing professionals, so we asked some recent housing graduates if they would be willing to share a synopsis of their final assignments with the FNHPA membership.  What follows is a summary of the final assignment of one student – watch for more in future editions of the FNHPA newsletter. 

Nadia Paul, Paul First Nation


Our Housing History

The original form of housing for the Nakota people in White Whale Lake was the Tipi, which was a mobile housing solution that could be erected and dismantled multiple times. (PFN Elder, 2022) The geographical region of White Whale Lake provided the materials and resources necessary for the Nakota Stoney to build Tipis.

In 1884, Peter Ironhead and the Nakota Stoney of White Whale Lake consisted of 13 families, 60 people. The group had established 12 acres of land broken and under cultivation, built four houses, and a stable.  Government Officials and local missionaries tried to persuade Peter Ironhead to move his group back to Lac St Anne many times over four years. It is stated that Ironhead refused based on the development and improvements they had made at White Whale Lake (Gordon, 1981).

Current Housing Activity

The Paul First Nation Housing department is governed by Chief and Council. The department and programming are overseen by the Executive Director, and the operations and management of the Housing Department is directed by the Capital Projects Manager, and Housing Manager.

Today, Paul First Nation has a total registered population of 2173 people which includes 1335 living on reserve, and 836 living off reserve as of December 2021 (Indigenous Services Canada). According to the Paul First Nation Housing Data Base, there are a total of 210 homes which includes CMHC units, and band homes.

The Paul First Nation Housing Department receives annual allocation funding from Indigenous Services Canada per year which covers a portion of general revenues for operations and maintenance. Due to the limited budget, the housing needs below aren’t covered in the budget and require additional funding sources:

  • Housing portfolio management/administration
  • New homes
  • Renovations

Funding sources such as the CMHC On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program (Section 95), CMHC Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, and other external Federal/Provincial funding/grants are utilized to ensure effective programming and maintenance to homes.

Paul First Nation formally introduced a housing policy in 2019 to ensure health and safety for members of PFN, and as a guideline to maintain and preserve existing home units. The housing policy is currently in development.

Recommendations on Housing Improvements

Based on the information gathered and learnings acquired through the course, I believe the following recommendations might contribute to improved housing solutions and reduce our reliance on external funding.

Enforce Housing Policy

Policy must outline operational control of the housing portfolio and clearly address the roles and responsibilities of both tenants and housing staff. Policy should also address sustainable development and asset maintenance.  Policy must be enforced consistently.

Conduct a Community Housing Assessment

  • Conduct an assessment and analysis of housing conditions and needs of the community
  • Address tenant/occupant health and safety matters
  • Refer to on-reserve population and national housing occupancy standards

Acquire additional funding, and revenue sources to improve housing solutions for both on- and off-reserve members

  • Private sector loans
  • Off-reserve property management for urban areas
  • Industry/Band Revenue assistance with different housing needs


Chantel Langille, Millbrook First Nation

Our Housing History

The traditional Mi’kmaq housing design used by our ancestors is a wigwam. The wigwam was built to withstand the many elements and seasons and was easily moved from one place to another. The wigwam was covered by using birchbark, the birchbark would cover the wood poles. Birchbark strips were then sewn together with spruce.  The birchbark and spruce roots were used for their strengths they each had. The birchbark was water resistant which would protect the inside from rain or snow and the spruce roots were strong and flexible. The wigwam would be built directly on the ground. For comfort, fir branches were spread on the floor - over the fir would be woven reed mats and moose or other animal skins.  The wigwam left a hole at the top to allow smoke from the fire to exhaust. The fire was used to provide warmth and light.  The fire would also be used for cooking.

Current Housing Activity

Currently, our total membership is approximately 2,100 band members. Millbrook First Nation has reserve land in Millbrook, Cole Harbour, Sheet Harbour and Beaver Dam.  Approximately 970 members live on reserve and 1,200 live off reserve. Members may choose to live on and off reserve for many reasons (i.e., proximity to employment).

Millbrook is a continuously growing community with approximately 300 housing units in Millbrook, Cole Harbour, Sheet Harbour and Beaver Dam. The 300 housing units include family units, single units, row-housing, and duplexes. 

We are currently in the process of having two new family units and four single units built. The number of family units outweighs the number of single units we have to offer. The need for single units has come to our attention for single adults, couples, and elders. Another area our community needs to focus on is transitional housing. Transitional housing is important for those that are transitioning from rehab or being institutionalized because it could mean the difference of someone being homeless or moving around to multiple different locations.

Recommendations on Housing Improvements

Youth are an important part of our community and can be a huge part of our community’s success in the years to come.  Youth could implement their own knowledge and come up with ideas to improve their communities’ current and future housing needs.

Our housing is primarily focused on building family homes. Although family homes can meet the needs of many individuals, we need to remember single adults, couples, elders, and individuals that need transitioning homes as mentioned previously.

Community members are our backbone. It’s important they are included in the development of our community and that their opinions are taken into consideration. An improvement that could possibly be made is having more community input in the development of housing and the housing they think is necessary.