The Dene Nation says it has come up with an affordable and sustainable solution to the North’s housing crisis and it’s hoping the territorial and federal governments will help to back it.
The Dene Nation, in partnership with Eagle Building Solutions based in Grande Prairie, Alberta, announced their new rapid housing initiative on Thursday. They hope to build modular homes designed to withstand the northern climate across the territory.
As proof of the effectiveness of their plan, they have installed a one-bedroom show home for viewing in Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
“The Dene deliver,” Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya told reporters.
“I really believe this could be the solution to our housing crisis in the North. It can be done. We’ve proven it. We’ve delivered.”
The project will see an Elder from Jean Marie River First Nation or the Łıı́d́lı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation displaced by flooding move into a new two-bedroom, fully furnished home. The new homeowner will be selected through a draw of names submitted by community leadership and Elders councils and the home will be presented at the 51st Dene National Assembly in September.
In addition, Eagle Building Solutions is providing $10,000 in groceries and other assistance to help those in need affected by the flooding.
“We have an urgent housing crisis across the North, made worse by the impact of the natural disasters, such as the flooding this spring that affected our community. Housing has always been a concern and continues to be a priority for the people of Denendeh,” Yakeleya said.
Homes not houses
The national chief said the units from Eagle Building Solutions are better quality, more affordable and can be built faster than other housing projects he’s seen in the North. He said the first home was designed and completed in five months and a one bedroom unit costs approximately $150,000.
“These houses are awesome,” Yakeleya said.
“I believe in it so much I might even buy one myself. That’s how good it is.”
Kirk Fowler with Eagle Building Solutions also touted features of the units like spray foam insulation, metal roofing and wood trim as being built to last and overcome issues that some northern homes can face. He noted the units can be adapted to communities’ needs and the business will be working with Dene Nation on future floor plans.
“We heard national chief loud and clear that he doesn’t want houses, he wants homes.”
Fowler anticipates future production of homes could take as little as 10 to 12 days to complete. He pledged that the company will be able to keep up with demand and could build another plant if required to meet the needs of the North.
‘We all need each other’
The Dene-led housing initiative has been in the works for the past two years and involved collaboration with Dene leaders, Indigenous businesses and government agencies.
Yakeleya said the initial home is just the first step in what he’s aiming will be a decades long partnership that will see more affordable homes across the North, along with training and employment opportunities for Dene.
Now that the show home is available for viewing, Yakeleya hopes the territorial and federal governments – which are mandated to address housing needs – will be just as excited about the initiative as he is, and help to support it.
“No one government can go it alone. We all need each other,” he said.
“There’s so many opportunities that it’s going to be tough for the government to turn a blind eye to it.”