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Kluane First Nation crafting new home ownership program

The Kluane First Nation is revising its rental policy to be able to one day introduce a brand new home ownership program to Burwash Landing residents.

The Kluane First Nation is revising its rental policy to be able to one day introduce a brand new home ownership program to Burwash Landing residents.

Chief Math’ieya Alatini said community members are slowly warming up to the idea of having to pay for their homes.

As it stands, Kluane First Nation citizens don’t pay rent for the houses they live in. The First Nation covers the cost of the mortgage, as well as maintenance to the homes.

“It’s a bit of an anomaly,” Alatini said.

“And it’s definitely not real life. To even start implementing the idea of rent is a huge step.

“People want home ownership, but with that comes a lot of responsibility and costs.”

This week, the First Nation Market Housing Trust Board is having its annual general meeting in Burwash Landing.

The board oversees a national fund, created in 2007 to help First Nations across Canada develop and implement home ownership programs in their communities.

The Kluane First Nation has been working with the board for almost two years now to develop a new home ownership program, Alatini said.

Reaching an agreement would mean the First Nation could subsidize a homeowner’s rent up to 80 per cent.

“We could take those extra funds that we’re not putting into housing and put it into other programming,” Alatini said.

“And people would be able to say, ‘This is my house.’”

The agreement was supposed to be completed last November, but they’ve hit a few snags along the way, she said.

The First Nation has worked with seven others on developing its own land titles act and land registry, but the act has been stalled, Alatini said, because of a legal review that has to ensure the legislation works with all other Yukon legislations.

“The current land titles act references like five other legislations, so we have to make sure those references are actually applicable, and that’s just taking more time,” she said.

That means the First Nation currently cannot access the registry of properties, or actually register sales and leases, she added.

The First Nation’s current agreement with the board runs out at the end of October.

“We’re kind of on our own after that,” Alatini said.

The issue of home ownership in Burwash Landing was front and centre during a recent court case.

Both Derek Johnson and Wilfred Sheldon, former residents of the community, disputed an eviction notice they received from the First Nation in February.

The brothers argued the evictions were driven by a political vendetta.

They are both barred by a court order from living in the community after they were convicted of forcibly confining Colin Johnson in 2013, who later committed suicide.

At the end of the case, Justice Peter Chisholm concluded the residency dispute boiled down to whether the brothers were tenants or owners of their homes, and whether the First Nation had grounds to terminate the tenancies.

Since the brothers failed to make any payments or pursue the completion of a sales agreement, Chisholm concluded either party could terminate the tenancy.

The brothers’ tenancies were terminated on June 1.

Moving forward, Alatini said the First Nation still has to build up its financial system so it can handle rent collection, and train residents to get ready for home ownership.

“We still want to make it cost effective for people to live in the community,” she said.

“The idea of rent isn’t palatable, people are asking why they should have to pay it. Others are realizing the free ride can’t go on forever.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at