Owning a home for the first time did something amazing for Manitoba Tipi Mitawa family Katina and Kris Cochrane that they weren’t expecting.

“It was weird but when we moved into the house it validated our little family. It said that we were growing together. It showed us that we were committed to each other and we were more established. We’re more invested in being a family now,” says Katina, 26, the mother of two-year-old Kinly.

The Cochranes were the fourth family to be accepted into the MTM program to help First Nations families buy their first home. They chose a house in a neighbourhood near a good school and immediately felt like they were part of a neighbourhood for the first time.

“We didn’t know anyone for four years in our last rental. Now that we’re in a house we know our neighbours and kind of feel like our daughter can play in the yard because our good neighbours are looking out for her too. It’s made a big difference for her,” says Katina, who works in the justice system and is expecting the couple’s second child in April.

“We could always go back home and live in our community, but the downfall is we cannot build equity when we’re on the reserve,” she adds, because the house is not owned by individuals.

“One of the best things about this house is we get to build our future and make our lives a little better financially.”

This year for the first time Vickie Bushie will celebrate Christmas in a home she owns, and that will make all the difference.

“What’s nice about Christmas in our own home is a real tree. They aren’t even allowed in a rental place. I grew up with a real tree in my family home with my parents, so that’s something I wanted to give my kids,” Vickie says after MREA and AMC representatives brought a fresh tree into her home as a gift.

“This is our first Christmas in this home so instead of all going over Christmas day to the parents’ house and to each grandparent’s, we’re staying home and we’re inviting the whole family to our house – and they’re all excited.”

And a special pre-Christmas gift has already arrived.

“For the last five years, the kids have been wanting a dog. And now that we’ve been able to purchase a home we’ve been able to get them the dog that they wanted.”

 

Vickie Bushie’s family celebrate their first Christmas in their own home. Left to right Cally, Mom Vickie, Jeffery & Jesse, Carly, Dad Jeffrey and new dog Rocky.

Paying rent never paid off

Sonya Chesworth learned early that being a renter was never getting her ahead in life. At age 15, she took over paying rent when, as an only child, both her parents fell ill.

“I was just a kid when the landlady knocked on the door and said the rent was due. We had never struggled until that moment. My parents had always provided for me. So I realized I had to go out and provide for them and I got a job waitressing to pay our rent,” says Sonya, now 31 years old.

That led to a life of one rental place after another – mostly in Winnipeg’s roughest neighbourhoods. Later when she married, it meant living with in-laws sharing the rent to help everyone make ends meet. She and her husband William turned down one landlord’s offer to sell them their rental house for $60,000. Thirteen years later she saw the same house on the market for $210,000.

“We said ‘no’ then because we didn’t understand or realize what an opportunity it was,” says Sonya, who waitresses full time.

But when Sonya’s mother-in-law heard about the Manitoba Tipi Mitawa housing program on the news six years ago, she urged her son William to apply for the program.

“We thought about it for a while and we just figured how much we were paying in rent, and at the end of the day we were still paying for someone else to have a place,” says William Anderson, 31.

Aboriginal homeownership is possible

Shelley Wilson, a grandmother of seven, bought her home with help from MTM just this fall. She says it is all very new and exciting, especially the reaction of friends when they find out she bought a home.

“I don’t know very many Aboriginal homeowners, so just knowing that I’m in the category of people that own their homes just makes me so proud and I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” says Shelley.

“One of the greatest things about this program for me is I want so badly to show my children and my grandkids what you can do. I’m doing everything for them. They are everything to me, so I’m really just grateful.”

Manitoba Tipi Mitawa By the numbers

  •  11 – Number of families supported and moved into their homes
  • 1 -Number of families in this phase of the program waiting to find their dream home
  • $166,700 – Average house price at time of purchase between 2009 and 2012
  • $180,600 – Average value of the same homes today
  • $25,500 – Average increase in profits for homes bought between 2009 and 2011
  • $83,290 – MREA’s contribution to date towards down payments on 11 homes
  • 28 – Number of families MREA wants to help next

We couldn’t have done it without…Manitoba Real Estate Association which invented the program, found partners and paid for one-third of each family’s home deposit. It also managed the program and organized home ownership training courses each family was required to attend Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs whose leadership sat on an advisory board to co-manage, identify and screen applicants

Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation which provided two-thirds of each family’s home deposit, and provided subsidized mortgage payments Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation which provided home-maintenance training sessions for the applicants.

SEED Winnipeg which provided personal financial training for MTM families Assiniboine Credit Union  which provided mortgages for MTM families Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, Manitoba which provided discounted home inspections.

Special thanks to…

Manitoba and Canadian Government leaders who found the funds to bring the program to life: current Manitoba Housing Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross, former Housing Minister Gord McIntosh; former Federal Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Monte Solberg, Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development; MP Rod Bruinooge.