Key in a lock

Unique First Nations Housing Manager program trains people for success

July 9, 2022
Author: Jenn McGarrigle

Three VIU alumni share their experiences

VIU’s First Nations Housing Manager certificate program trains housing managers who work with on-reserve housing. The training program was developed with some initial funding support from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The program, designed to be completed over the course of two years while students are still working, is made up of six online courses that help managers maintain affordable, healthy, high-quality and well-maintained housing in their communities.

Housing managers on First Nations reserves are charged with managing the rental housing stock for the community. They handle the maintenance and renovations of rental units, collect the rent, ensure mortgages are covered, create policies around housing, and manage the tenants and any new construction initiatives. VIU offers the only online program accessible to learners across the country. 

The program is taught by Frank French, who graduated from the program himself in 2018.

“After nearly 20 years of working in housing on-reserve, I realized that all the issues, challenges and successes that I had over the years, I often felt like I was alone,” he says. “It was this program that helped me realize that I was not alone, and that other housing managers were dealing with similar challenges. Now as an educator/facilitator of the First Nations Housing Manger program, I am still learning from students from across the country.”

Three alumni share their stories about how the program is helping them in their careers.

Putting all the puzzle pieces together

Sharon McKay headshot

Sharon McKay

Sharon Mckay decided to enrol in VIU’s First Nations Housing Manager program after taking on the position of Housing Manager at her Nation – Simpcw First Nation.

“To be the best at my job, I knew that I needed training in some areas,” she says. “Throughout the program I was able to work at my own pace. The best part was the encouragement from staff and students from across Canada. They were able to share the challenges and successes they were experiencing in their housing portfolios for the rest of us to learn from.”

The program helped Sharon “put all the puzzle pieces together” that were needed to make her successful at her job and covered everything housing managers need to know to build homes from beginning to end, including finances, budgeting, hiring contractors, funding partnerships and much more.

“This program was the greatest tool to my success and my continued role in housing. Every housing staff member should take this program. Education is so important for individuals to be the best they can be.”

Sharon is now the Project Coordinator for Housing Resources Services, supporting 33 bands in interior BC. Her dream is to see the completion of all First Nations housing and to have safe housing for band members in all of BC.

Communicating effectively with citizens

Andrea Paul headshot

Andrea Paul

As Housing Manager for Tla’amin Nation on BC’s Sunshine Coast, Andrea Paul is grateful to the First Nations Housing Manager program for providing her with the tools and skills to effectively communicate and facilitate changes within administration to citizens.

“Change can be difficult, especially when there isn’t community involvement or education on the changes being made,” she explains. “The program taught me what to look for while considering new constructions, and how to build homes that are sustainable and suitable for First Nations lifestyles.”

Andrea loved being able to exchange ideas with First Nations communities across Canada throughout the program, as she found herself learning from the situations other students in similar circumstances shared. Her goal is to create policies that protect both members of Tla’amin Nation and the administration.

“Rebuilding relationships with community members is of utmost importance to me, and for this we must have transparent communication and consultation with our citizens as we make these important developments,” she says. “My dream is to create sustainable, healthy and safe living spaces for our community members – homes that are energy efficient and include citizens in the build process to instill a sense of pride; homes that they love and respect.”

Inspiring further education

Ray Stebbins headshot

Ray Stebbins

Ray Stebbins, superintendent of Building Maintenance for Eel River Bar First Nation, is grateful for the opportunity to attend the First Nations Housing Manager program, as he realized early-on the training requirements needed for his position. He was pleasantly surprised to see how his education was viewed in a positive light by Nation members, and he is now enrolled in further housing professional education.

“Completing the program made me realize I can accomplish anything I put my mind to,” he says. “It was a positive experience, the instructors helped us keep on track, the communication was great. I appreciated the personal contact by email for any issues I encountered.”

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