VIU’s First Nations Housing Manager Certificate Program trains housing managers working in reserve housing. The training program was developed with 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, consists 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 refurbishment of rental units, collect the rent, ensure that 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 presented by Frank French, who himself graduated from the program in 2018.
“After almost 20 years of working in housing on reserve, I realized that all the issues, challenges and successes I had over the years, I often felt like I was alone,” he says. “It was this program that helped me realize that I am not alone, and that other housing managers face similar challenges. Now as an educator / facilitator of the First Nations Housing Manager program, I am still learning from students from across the country. ”
Three alumni share their stories about how the program helps them in their careers.
Put all the puzzle pieces together
Sharon Mckay decided to enroll in VIU’s First Nations Housing Manager program after taking up the post of Housing Manager at her Nation – Simpcw First Nation.
“To be the best in my job, I knew I needed training in some areas,” she says. “Through the program I was able to work at my own pace. The best part was the encouragement of staff and students from across Canada. They were able to share the challenges and successes they experienced in their housing portfolios for the rest of us to learn from. ”
The program helped Sharon “put together all the puzzle pieces” needed to make her successful in her job and covered everything housing managers need to know to build homes from start to finish, including finance, budgeting, rental contractors, funding partnerships and much more.
“This program was the biggest tool for my success and my continued role in housing. Every housing staff member must follow this program. Education is so important for individuals to be the best they can be. ”
Sharon is now the project coordinator for housing resource services, supporting 33 groups in inland BC. Her dream is to see the completion of all First Nations housing and to have secure housing for orchestra members throughout BC.
Communicate effectively with citizens
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 communicate effectively and facilitate changes in administration to citizens.
“Change can be difficult, especially if there is no community involvement or education about 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 fit for First Nations lifestyles.”
Andrea loved being able to exchange ideas with First Nations communities across Canada throughout the program, as she found that she learned from the situations that other students shared in similar circumstances. Its purpose 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 need to 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 building process to cultivate a sense of pride; homes that they love and respect. ”
Inspiring further education
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 realizes early on the training requirements required for his position. He was pleasantly surprised to see how his training was viewed in a positive light by Nation members, and he is now enrolled for further housing professional education.
“Completing the program made me realize that I can achieve anything I have in mind,” he says. “It was a positive experience, the instructors helped us stay on track, the communication was great. I appreciated the personal contact via email for any issues I encountered. ”