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Addressing Aboriginal Housing Needs

The provincial housing strategy, Housing Matters BC, recognizes the disproportionate number of Aboriginal individuals or families in British Columbia who are homeless or living in core housing need.

BC Housing is working in partnership with AHMA and Aboriginal housing providers to address the need for appropriate Aboriginal social housing through a range of housing options:

  • More than 200 off-reserve units have been built to provide safe, secure and culturally appropriate housing for youth, women, elders and those struggling with addictions.
  • Over 4,200 subsidized Aboriginal housing units are available in B.C.
  • The B.C. government has transferred the administration of all Aboriginal housing units and programs to AHMA to support Aboriginal self-management of social housing as a result of the federal/provincial devolution agreement.
  • See our 2016-2017 Housing Sustainability Plan for examples of our new Aboriginal initiatives.
  • See our 2015/2016 Annual Report to learn how we enhanced partnerships with Aboriginal groups.

In 2004, B.C. became the first province in Canada to transfer the management of Aboriginal social housing to the Aboriginal community. The Province transferred 189 units of social housing to the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA), setting a precedent for the future devolution of Aboriginal housing. Read the announcement.

In 2006, the Canada-BC Social Housing Agreement transferred the administration of more than 51,000 federally funded social housing units to the Province. Included in the agreement were about 2,500 off-reserve Aboriginal social housing units.

In 2013, under the B.C. Aboriginal Social Housing Management Agreement, the B.C. government transferred administration of all Aboriginal social housing programs and services, including emergency shelters and the Aboriginal Homeless Outreach Program, to AHMA. As a result, AHMA now administers the subsidy payments and operating agreements for 40 Aboriginal housing providers. Read the announcement.


In 2007, the federal government transferred responsibility for the Rural Native Housing Program, established in 1974, to BC Housing.  It included more than 500 houses in more than 100 rural communities around B.C. These properties, with an assessed value of more than $88 million, were owned by the provincial government.  BC Housing began working closely with AHMA in 2011 to transfer ownership to the non-profit Aboriginal housing sector through two requests for proposals (RFPs). The first RFP was for properties on Vancouver Island, and the second was for properties in mainland B.C. Ownership transfer was completed in 2013, with AHMA responsible for the administration of subsidies and operating agreements. 

Since 2004, more than 4,200 housing units have been transferred to Aboriginal providers – giving Aboriginal Peoples more control over their social housing options.

In 2015, BC Housing achieved gold certification through the Progressive Aboriginal Relations certification process. Our initiatives and partnerships with Aboriginal organizations are assessed by an independent third-party organization, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. The Council assesses our commitment to the Aboriginal sector in four areas: employment, business development, community investment and community engagement.

Established 10 years ago, the Progressive Aboriginal Relations certification is a multi-tiered reporting process that involves a detailed submission, independent third-party verification of company reports and interviews with key stakeholders and staff. Companies undertaking the process may achieve a bronze, silver or gold designation.

High performance in Aboriginal relations is in keeping with BC Housing’s strategic priority to enhance Aboriginal housing partnerships. We are proud to be the first social housing provider in Canada to be awarded a Progressive Aboriginal Relations designation.

BC Housing works in partnership with the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) to achieve our common goal of self-management, self-reliance and self-sufficiency in the provision of safe, affordable housing for Aboriginal Peoples.

AHMA was formed in 1995 and is a province-wide social housing management agency. This Aboriginal management model for social housing is the first of its kind in Canada.

In 2012, under the B.C. Aboriginal Social Housing Management Agreement, the Province transferred administration of all Aboriginal social housing, including emergency shelters and the Aboriginal Homeless Outreach Program, from BC Housing to AHMA.

AHMA administers subsidy payments and operating agreements for 40 Aboriginal non-profit housing providers. The Province has transferred more than 4,000 Aboriginal units to AHMA.

In British Columbia, project operating agreements representing almost 30,000 subsidized housing units will expire by the year 2033.

Operating agreements set out the amount, duration and conditions of the subsidy provided by the provincial or federal governments, or both. Their expiry, often tied to a 35-year mortgage amortization period, means when the mortgage expires, non-profit housing providers are responsible for the project’s ongoing financial viability.

We’ve created a planning guide to help non-profit housing providers prepare for expiry of their operating agreements. The guide provides an introduction to a step-by-step planning process you can undertake to ensure that your non-profit is ready for expiry, and outlines what your options are pre- and post-expiry.

Through the Aboriginal Housing Initiative, new housing is being developed to create safe, secure and culturally appropriate housing for youth, women, elders and those who are struggling with addiction. This Initiative is part of Housing Matters BC, the provincial housing strategy, and helps to ensure that Aboriginal housing needs are being addressed.

The Aboriginal Housing Initiative launched in 2007, funded in part through a $50.9 million grant from the Off-Reserve Aboriginal Housing Trust, which was transferred from the Government of Canada to the Province of B.C. This funding went towards the development of more than 200 new affordable housing units for Aboriginal Peoples living off-reserve.

In 2012, the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia announced a further combined investment of $5 million under the Initiative to create affordable rental housing projects with a focus on Aboriginal clients across B.C., through the CMHC-British Columbia Agreement for Investment in Affordable Housing (2011-2014) . The Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) is partnering with the Province to assist in the evaluation process and to oversee the management and operations of the Aboriginal housing projects.