What is Housing as a Business (HaaB)? 

Housing as a Business (HaaB) is a proven “business model” that encourages private home ownership and profitable rental housing regimes on a First Nation. Ideally, HaaB incorporates mortgage finance spreads through the establishment of a community owned & managed revolving loan fund (RLF).   HaaB will also work with traditional mortgages that are held by other financial institutions and guaranteed by the government. The key principal of HaaB is to assist First Nation members access mortgages that they can afford and to have the private homes constructed by First Nation owned business.

The HaaB model encourages and provides additional housing related business opportunities for the First Nation Communities and Aboriginal Entrepreneurs.  A few of the many business opportunities include materials supply, construction, furnishings, maintenance, landscaping and a host of others.

How is HaaB different from existing housing practices today?

HaaB is a business opportunity for Aboriginal Private Homeownership – The HaaB model is a business initiative that is owned, controlled and managed by the First Nation community. This model highlights the various profitable business opportunities in housing and housing related businesses.

Several First Nations are exploring an innovative approach to address the housing needs of the community by establishing revolving loan programs for “private home ownership” in addition to affordable social rental programs.

Who is Housing as a Business (HaaB)?

The HaaB initiative is currently comprised of a project team that includes Grand River Employment and Training, HaaB staff and the HOME Teams. The HOME Advisory Teams are a volunteer advisory board made up of professionals from the Private and Public Sector. The advisory board is called the “Housing Opportunity Mentorship Expertise” Advisory Team (H.O.M.E. Advisory Team or the H.O.M.E. Team). H.O.M.E. Teams currently exist in the provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan. The HOME teams provide assistance as requested by individual communities.

What will the HOME Team do for me?

The goals of the HOME Team are to:

  • Help advance the Housing as a Business (HaaB) concept on First Nations as determined by the First Nation.
  • Recommend and Guide strategic HaaB plans and priorities for the First Nation.
  • Recommend specific actions and Best Practices to develop HaaB on your First Nation.
  • Foster communication among First Nations practitioners that wish to develop Housing as a Business.
  • Focus on changing attitudes to consider housing as a Business and as an Economic driver rather than a social or capital program.
  • Help develop several First Nation, HaaB sponsored demonstration projects.
  • Evaluate, monitor and make recommendations to stakeholders and practitioners on the demonstration projects to enhance the success of the businesses.
  • Develop specific tools and templates for HaaB practitioners.

If I was interested in pursuing Housing as a Business, what should I do?

First thing you should do is contact one of our HaaB point people, Ken Jacobs or Laurie Buffalo, you can reach them by email or telephone at

ken.jacobs@sierrakwe.com , (705) 559-9985 or Manager@haab.ca.

Once you have contacted the HaaB staff, they can, in partnership with the HOME Team, begin setting a plan of action for you and your community including presentations to the community, Housing Committees, Managers and Chief & Council. Remember, the HaaB staff and the HOME Team are here to guide you through the process to properly establish HaaB and there is no obligation on the part of the First Nation.

Are there grants available to develop HaaB?

Yes, several sources of financial assistance are available to help you develop HaaB within your First Nation. For complete details please contact one of our HaaB staff members for further information.

Is there a cost to engage the HOME Team?

No, the HOME team is a Voluntary Advisory group that is interested in promoting and developing HaaB. All costs of the HOME Team will be the responsibility of the HOME Team. There may be operational costs at the First Nation level and there will be some costs as the First Nation moves toward implementation of HaaB. These costs and potential sources of financial support will be discussed before there is a commitment from the community.

Is HaaB an initiative for every First Nation?

No, the “Housing as a Business” model is not for every First Nation. Certain necessary economic conditions need to be met. The First Nation Council must be willing to allow the business to operate independently, without or apart from political interference or influence. The ideal system will be a First Nation owned business that is independent and incorporated as a separate entity with a strategic plan providing “best practices” in housing products and services to First Nation members.

Why is private home ownership so difficult on First Nations?

The Indian Act section 89(1) prevents Aboriginals from obtaining individual title to reserve land. Only the right to occupy a particular parcel of land can be transferred from the First Nation to a member. Reserve lands and assets owned by an “Indian” located on-reserve cannot be mortgaged, pledged, attached, levied, charged or seized by a non-Indian. The Crown ownership of First Nations lands makes it difficult for community members to obtain financing for housing construction or mortgages. As a result only 28.5 % of Aboriginals enjoy private home ownership as opposed to 67% of Canadian households. HaaB addresses this inequality.

What are the Major Constraints to Private Home Ownership on First Nation?

Major constraints to private home ownership on-reserve could be due to a variety of constraints, a few of them are:

  • Lack of Income to support the purchase of a private home
  • Lack of Housing Infrastructure available on the First Nation
  • No Housing Resale Market and/or Lack of a Functioning Housing Market
  • Land Ownership and Transfer issues
  • Land Registry Systems
  • Failure of the Federal Government to meet its housing responsibilities
  • First Nation governments must consider the politics of housing
  • Difficulty in saving a Down Payment (5, 10, 25% of the total cost of the house)
  • Costs of Ministerial Loan Guarantees (MLG)
  • Lack of skills required to maintain a home
  • Ceilings on Loan Amounts
  • Difficulty in obtaining Joint Certificates (couples – married and/or common law)
  • Social Housing attitudes
  • Lack of Business related skills
  • Mortgage concepts are not fully understood

What are the Major Keys to success in HaaB?

An abbreviated list of the critical keys to the success of a HaaB entity is as follows:

  • Demand for housing (bench mark 5-10 private homes per year)
  • Sources of mortgage capital
  • Land tenure
  • Community Readiness:
  • Reasonable Employment Levels
  • Willingness to take on Debt
  • Lands & Housing Department on board
  • Land Base (Infrastructure) established
  • Serviced Land
  • Security of Land Tenure
  • Willingness to separate politics from business
  • Credit worthiness of prospective homeowners
  • Leadership on board
  • Strategic Planning
  • The Five Phased Approach
  • The Seven Major Tasks in establishing a HaaB entity

The key to this market is the under-serviced, middle to upper income, financially secure First Nation family. This target market is conservatively projected at 15% of the membership. The upper income family at the First Nation are presently the last to be considered for social housing and HaaB is an opportunity to provide access to proper housing.

Why is the time right for HaaB now?

  • Large and Growing Housing Market on First Nations
  • Returning First Nation Members (plus the new “Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act” (Bill C-3) which came into effect on January 31, 2011)
  • Low Interest Rates (this will not last)
  • Proven Profitable Business Concepts
  • Proof of Low Loan Delinquency in housing in First Nation communities
  • Bank and Institutional eagerness to finance Housing deals
  • Profitable Venture based on Non-Social Housing concepts
  • Profits can be allocated to social housing or other community needs
  • Step towards having control of First Nation’s own housing, increasing self-sufficiency
  • Government Housing initiatives
  • First Nation Readiness

For more details, please visit the website at


Are other First Nations engaged in HaaB?

Yes, several First Nation communities such as Six Nations, Kahnawake, Curve Lake and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte are examples of communities that have implemented elements of Housing as a Business. Several other First Nations are beginning to implement HaaB within their First Nation.

If you would like to explore HaaB on your First Nation please contact Ken Jacobs you can reach him by email or telephone at

ken.jacobs@sierrakwe.com, (705) 559-9985.

Contact Information

Mr. Ken Jacobs
Email: ken.jacobs@sierrakwe.com                   
Direct Line: (705) 559-9985
Email: Manager@haab.ca