After graduating from the SAIT Housing Managers Certificate Program, Ashley Smith, FNHP was introduced to the First Nations Housing Professionals Association (FNHPA) and was excited to learn that an association had been formed for First Nation housing professionals. Says Smith, “Housing Managers have complex positions that vary with our culture and geography. The FNHPA has understood this from the start, has done considerable research, and knows where we need to enhance our skills. When I started in housing, we didn’t have anything like this – we just took individual courses as they came along”.
With eight years of experience as a Housing Manager, Smith finds herself working with Section 95 and Band units as well as commercial projects alongside Chief and Council, the Community, CMHC and ISC. With 10 years of experience in the construction industry owning and operating JA Smith Construction Management in Binscarth, Manitoba, she is currently working with multiple First Nation communities in the capacity of Project Manager and/or General Contractor.
When She first learned about the FNHP designation, Smith jumped in with both feet. “it’s so important,” she notes, “to learn all phases of housing management, not just maintenance and repairs”. Longer term, Smith believes that housing managers will benefit from a professional designation and holds the view that every First Nation needs this type of expertise and competency as the foundation for a successful housing department.
“There will be great benefit in being able to demonstrate to your community that you are qualified to hold the position you occupy”, she says. She also feels that for women who hold positions in housing that may be even more important. Says Smith, “Indigenous women care about their communities, housing and the environment, and that impacts our outlook on life, and that of everyone in our community”. Noting that housing and health go hand in hand, it becomes clear that Smith is inspired by the opportunity to do work that matters to First Nation Communities and believes the First Nations must be the ones to rebuild their Nation.