First Nation Housing is subject to a complicated regulatory environment that allows First Nation to piecemeal local rules to answer local circumstances at any given time. How we manage lands, structure our member access to banks, allocate subsidies, allocate social housing, structure our finance department and tenant relations are all built on a different set of rules. Yet, we notice that they all achieve similar success and are confronted with similar difficulties.
To some degree, we are all aware of what a First Nation Housing best practice is. For rent collection, direct deduction, source deduction and incentive are widespread and have increased rent collection. For building better homes at a better price, we invest in training, associations and improved monitoring of projects. Private housing has been viewed as a mechanism to increase the number of units being built in the community. All communities have used one of the others of these practices and have achieved similar success.
Also to some degree, we are all aware of widespread difficulties. Enforcing strict sanctions in rent collection is rare and often difficult. Political change is a critical point in which housing can dramatically shift in priority. Politics often get involved to a certain degree. Tenants often have under-par maintenance practice and provided with the opportunity, they will avoid paying rent.
At this point we can see a trend. First Nations have been making some form of gains from an operational level when the by-product this organizational change neither impacts politics, nor tenants. From a behavioural perspective, however, things have changed very little. Some politician still view housing as a political tool and some members still view housing as an entitlement.
The idea behind a housing corporation is a direct answer the behavioural challenges of housing. And the question we need to ask ourselves, can a housing corporation protect us from political intervention and member’s compliance to rules. And I believe the answer is no because it too can fall prey to anchored behaviours. A Housing Corporation is an operational answer to behaviour. It can however have success with proper preconditions.
A Housing Policy true purpose is to change the behaviours of members in the field of housing, provide them with housing opportunities and improve community well-being. How to get there is the real question.
If we recognize that behaviour is the underlying problem, it stands to reason to focus our attention on changing it.
In a nutshell, focus on behaviour first, then tackle the operational environment after.
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