From the Brandon Sun/Aug. 1, 2019–A new project launched by the Manitoba Metis Federation is helping families in the community purchase the keys to their first homes.

The MMF’s First Time Home Purchase Program launched about five months ago and 165 families have been helped to date, including 13 in the southwest region, said Southwest Region minister of housing and property management Will Goodon.

The program will contribute to approved applicants’ first-time home purchase in the province, offering five per cent of the purchase up to a maximum of $15,000 for a down payment and one and a half per cent up to a maximum of $2,500 toward closing costs.

The First Time Home Purchase Program is the result of a partnership between the Manitoba Metis Federation and one of their affiliates Louis Riel Capital Corporation.

The Manitoba Metis Federation set aside $5 million for the project this year and about half of the funds have been used so far. If the program works through the remaining capital before the next fiscal year (March 31), Goodon said, Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand said he was willing to put more money to help more people in the community.

“I think the success of it would allow us to make that decision very easily,” Goodon said.

The program has played a pivotal role in helping Metis families get their first home, Southwest Region vice-president Leah LaPlante said.

The program was conceived of by Chartrand, Goodon explained, and stems back to when the Métis Nation first joined Canada in 1870.

At the time, the Manitoba Act was signed between Canada and the Métis. The act promised to set aside land for Métis families to ensure that future generations would have a solid economic footing.

The idea was to set aside land to give Métis families and children a head start on the pioneers who came into the land and provide them with economic opportunities.

“Canada didn’t follow through on their end of the deal. They chased us off our land and chased us right across Western Canada,” Goodon said.

After a more than 30-year court battle, the Métis were able to secure some land for today’s generation.

A portion of the funding of the First Time Home Purchase Program has been fed by the land claims process.

“This is not a whole solution, but it’s a part of the ‘head start’ to help people who can’t quite get enough money for the down payment (on a house),” Goodon said.

Goodon explained that while many families can afford the month-to-month rent of a home, many cannot afford the down payment needed to secure their own property.

By being able to afford rent, he said they demonstrate they can afford mortgage payments.

Providing homeowners with the ability to put down a mortgage payment helps give families the ability to purchase a safe place to call home that in turn helps them succeed in school, work and their communities.

One of the more surprising aspects to come out of the program has been the engagement the Manitoba Metis Federation has seen from the community’s youth, Goodon said.

For the most part, those accessing the program are young people with new jobs or small families, he said.

He hosted a youth event at the Manitoba Metis Federation Brandon office in July and said he was astounded at how excited the 17- to 19-year-old youths were for the opportunity to purchase a home.

“They see this as a head start — this is an opportunity they could have in the not-too-distant future to own a home, which took their parents years to achieve, or not at all,” Goodon said.

It has been one of the most popular programs they have had in a number of years, he said.

“People get really excited about it and really happy,” Goodon said. “It’s really neat to see.”

The program has also been a boon for the Manitoba economy, he added, because the initial $5-million investment is generating “tens of millions of dollars” in mortgages in financial institutions and the housing market.

To qualify for the program, one must be a resident of the province for a minimum of six months, provide proof of Métis citizenship, be over the age of 18, be able to qualify for a mortgage and have a gross family income below $85,000, among other eligibility requirements.

Given that it is the first year of the program, LaPlante said they have already started looking at some of the rules of the program and how they may need to be adjusted in the future. She cited the potential of adjusting the gross income requirements or shifting toward net income as a qualification.

“We’re very flexible,” LaPlante said. “We want to be putting people in their own homes.”