Sambaa K’e is consulting its members to put together an action plan that addresses the Dehcho community’s housing needs.
Yellowknife consulting firm Planit North is leading a review for the Sambaa K’e First Nation that involves interviews and surveys followed by housing assessments and building inspections.
The resulting plan will pinpoint issues considered most pressing by residents. The work is understood to be funded by the federal and territorial governments.
Aaron Chonkolay, a Sambaa K’e resident, is the community trainee housing coordinator carrying out surveys and gathering feedback.
For Chonkolay, many of the issues the survey seeks to address have become personal.
“When something breaks, it’s a complicated process of going through the housing corporation,” he said.
“I put together an application for repairs but, before they could even consider it, I had to get a letter from Sambaa K’e saying that I reside in that house, and I was told from there the whole process could begin. But that pretty-much got me nowhere because I didn’t get any repairs. That was in January.”
The community is still selecting a company to conduct the housing assessments and building inspections, which it hopes will begin by next month.
In the meantime, after receiving his first wave of survey responses, Chonkolay says the problem is bigger than he thought.
“Some people’s homes that I thought were doing OK – they look OK from the outside – actually have quite a few problems on the inside,” he said.
“Foundation issues are a big one. Some people’s houses are shifting and they’re seeing cracks in their house, on the walls, on the ceilings.
“Quite a few times I heard that homes are set on screw jack foundations, and that means they’re set on wooden blocks, and those wooden blocks are rotting. So it’s a serious safety issue.”
Reached for comment, Planit North, the consulting firm, said it preferred for the First Nation to discuss the work being done to create an action plan.
While the project is still in its early stages, Chonkolay said better communication from Housing NWT is already emerging as a key priority. He hopes he’ll have a more complete picture of the situation in Sambaa K’e by the end of the summer.
“I’m glad to be doing my part in this plan for my community, for a better future in housing,” he said, “and I’m very excited to see it through.”
Sambaa K’e members interested in participating in the survey are encouraged to contact Chonkolay by phone at (867) 206-2818 ext 1003 or by email.