Almost half of First Nations adults and children live on reserve. The average number of First Nations family members living in a house is 3.7, compared with the Canadian average of 2.5. More than a quarter of on-reserve First Nations live in crowded homes, a rate that is 7 times greater than that of non-Indigenous people. Furthermore, 43% of First Nations houses on reserve are in need of major repairs, compared to 7% of Canadian houses.1
The poor housing conditions in which many on-reserve First Nations children live are contributing to many health and social problems. This includes increased prevalence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, bronchitis and influenza; increased social challenges associated with having less success at school; as well as increased vulnerability to injury or death resulting from an unsafe home environment, such as from fires. It is estimated that First Nations people are 10 times more likely to die in house fires than Canadians overall.2
Between 35,000 and 85,000 new homes are needed in First Nations on-reserve communities.2 There are many challenges to reaching this goal – including laws pertaining to on-reserve housing, unclear band regulation powers, increasing band debt, and issues such as population growth rates, low income and unemployment.2
1Statistics Canada. (2015). Aboriginal statistics at a glance: 2nd Edition. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 89-645- x2015001.
2Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples [SSCAP]. (2015). Housing on First Nation reserves: Challenges and successes, Interim report. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada.