The community of Fort Good Hope is pictured in November 2019. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio
The K’asho Got’ı̨nę Housing Society in Fort Good Hope has received an award from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The society was recognized by the federal agency for a study that examined the condition of privately owned homes in Fort Good Hope, the impact of repair and maintenance work, and which forms of repair were most useful in improving housing conditions.
“The project directly addresses housing outcomes related to Indigenous people and speaks to the specific conditions in Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories,” a news release from CMHC stated.
Arthur Tobac, director of the K’asho Got’ı̨nę Housing Society, accepted the award – known as the Gold Roof Award for Knowledge to Action – on behalf of the group.
In a virtual ceremony on Friday, Tobac said the research allowed the group to “better understand the humanness” behind housing issues in the community and how people are affected.
“We’re not just dealing with housing, we’re dealing with people,” he said.
“We are on the path to self-government in Fort Good Hope. As part of this journey, we are working toward being in control of our own housing and promoting responsible home ownership.”
He said the next step is to educate people.
The study now provides a guide to how repairs should be navigated and maintenance funding prioritized.
“Our community members are not often accessing government-run housing programs, even when they really need it,” Tobac said.
“This is for a variety of reasons: many distrust the government, they find it difficult to navigate the bureaucracy. Our own Indigenous-run housing programs, such as these housing assessments, have much higher participation because of that.”
The overall goal is to end the community’s dependence on other levels of government and become self-sufficient.
Chief of Fort Good Hope Tommy Kakfwi said the research showed the extent of the community’s housing crisis and the resources needed to address it.
“Many funding programs that are suitable in southern Canada, designed for reserve-based systems, are not working for people,” Kakfwi said. “I hope that our work is an example of a path to self-sufficiency.
“When we look at housing in general, the way we were raised, this whole housing mortgage system is new to us and so we go back to our Indigenous values of priority, of being responsible, being safe.
“We want to do it our style.”
According to information on the CMHC’s website, the K’asho Got’ı̨nę Housing Society’s study assessed 30 homes in the community.
“It fills an important housing data gap,” the CMHC said of the project. “The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has been unable to gather similar data because potential participants have a distrust of government organizations.”
Fort Good Hope recently acquired more control over maintenance and repairs from the NWT Housing Corporation, as the CBC reported in December 2020.
The Sahtu community’s isolation – accessible only by air or winter road – is an obstacle to the construction of new homes or major repair work. Costs are high and supplies take longer to arrive.
At the time, Tobac told the CBC that since work had to be put out to tender, contractors would often wait until multiple projects piled up before doing them, meaning residents waited months.
By taking control of its own housing repairs, the community could instead take immediate action while still using funding from the NWT Housing Corporation.
CMHC said the society had carried out 52 work orders on the 30 houses.
Of those, 32 were related to frozen sewage. Heating and plumbing accounted for about 15 percent of orders, while the remainder dealt with water pumps.
Eighty percent of the jobs took less than three hours.