SASKATOON - A group representing 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan is denouncing cuts to an on-reserve social housing program.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s budget for the program has been cut 30 per cent in the province to $18.7 million from $26.2 million.
"This is a crisis. Housing cuts will impact the standard of living of our communities which is already well below the poverty line," federation vice-chief Morley Watson said in a news release.
"What's needed is a stable, reasonable, multi-year funding so that First Nations can plan ahead instead of the current approach."
Under the program, the housing corporation allocates funding for long-term social housing subsidies.
The federation says 159 units were committed through the program in 2011-12. But this year, it says, the national housing agency estimates 88 units will be built in the province — a drop of 45 per cent.
The federation says there is a shortage of 11,000 homes on reserves across Saskatchewan.
One official pointed to the CMHC's 2011 annual report, in which the agency said that aboriginals living on reserves generally face poorer housing conditions than Canadians in general. That report said that based on the 2006 census, 52 per cent of on-reserve households live below adequacy and suitability standards.
The federation also says "it seems incredible" to make cuts to the program given the humanitarian crisis last fall on an Ontario reserve.
Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency after a severe housing shortage forced more than two dozen families to live in temporary, mouldy shelters, some without insulation or plumbing.
In an email to The Canadian Press, the CMHC said funds are provided every year for the new construction of about 400 homes, renovation of more than 1,000 and for ongoing subsidies to almost 30,000 households on reserves.
CMHC said "since this specific subsidy is not a one-time lump sum, payment calculations have to be adjusted according to projected interest rates."
"In previous years, CMHC was able to top-up this budget based on lower-than-expected interest rate projections and other risk factors," according to the email.
"However, with interest rates expected to increase over the coming years, CMHC will no longer have the ability to provide these increased top-up dollars."
It continues: "While the base funding for this program has not changed, projected increases to interest rates over the life of a project, as well as increases in the cost of construction and materials, the projection for units to be funded this year is lower than last year."
Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and Saskatchewan Native Brad Laroque alias "Freddy Kruger" come face to face in a tense standoff at the Kahnesatake reserve in Oka, Quebec, Saturday September 1, 1990. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Shaney Komulainen)
A warrior raises his weapon as he stands on an overturned police vehicle blocking a highway at the Kahnesetake reserve near Oka, Quebec July 11, 1990 after a police assault to remove Mohawk barriers failed. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson)
A Quebec Metis places a stick with an eagle feather tied to it into the barrel of a machine gun mounted on an army armored vehicle at Oka Thursday, Aug. 23, 1990. The vehicle was one of two positioned a few metres away from the barricade causing a breakdown in negotiations. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Grimshaw)
A Mohawk Indian winds up to punch a soldier during a fight that took place on the Khanawake reserve on Montreal's south shore in 1990. The army broke up the fight by shooting into the air. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (CP PHOTO)
Two aboriginal protesters man a barricade near the entrance to Ipperwash Provincial Park, near Ipperwash Beach, Ont., on Sept. 7, 1995. (CP PHOTO)
Ken Wolf, 9, walks away from a graffiti-covered smoldering car near the entrance to the Ipperwash Provincial Park in this September 7, 1995 photo. A group of aboriginal protesters were occupying the park and nearby military base. (CP PHOTO)
Caledonian activist Gary McHale (right) is confronted by a Six Nations Protester as he attempts to lead members of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) in carrying a makeshift monument to Six Nations land in Caledonia, Ont., on Sunday February 27, 2011. CANACE claim inequality in treatment for Caledonian residents from Ontario Provincial Police compared to that of the Six Nation population. They planned to plant a monument of six nation property to demand an apology from the OPP, but were turned back by protesters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
First Nations people of the Grand River Territory stand with protest signs as they force the redirection of the Vancover 2010 Olympic Torch Relay from entering The Six Nations land Monday, December 21, 2009 near Caledonia, Ontario. The Olympic torch's journey across Canada was forced to take a detour in the face of aboriginal opposition to the Games, with an Ontario First Nation rerouting its relay amid a protest from a splinter group in the community. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)
Six Nations protesters guard the front entrance of a housing development in Hagersville, Ont., just south of the 15-month aboriginal occupation at Caledonia on Wednesday, May 23, 2007. The protest was peaceful. (CP PHOTO/Nathan Denette)
Mohawk protestors block a road near the railway tracks near Marysville, Ont. with a bus and a bonfire Friday April 21, 2006. The natives showed their support to fellow natives in Caledonia, Ont. where they were in a stand off with police regarding land claims.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)