December 03, 2011

Home renovator tackles housing crisis

A big stories in Indian country this month has been the housing crisis on Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario. It's going through the usual spin cycle. Politicians are shocked that poverty still exists in Canada. Indians say they aren't getting enough funding to build decent houses. Critics say the tribal government is responsible for wasting money.

There's more than a whiff of racism surrounding the issue. The non-Indians didn't care enough to do anything until the media proclaimed it a crisis. Their attitude seems to be that giving money to Indians is like pouring it down the drain. You know, because Indians are uncivilized savages who haven't learned how to take care of themselves.

I haven't posted anything on this because it's not really a pop-culture issue. But this story is enough to justify a posting:

Stop building junk on reserves, says renovator Mike Holmes

Holmes on Homes host offers easy fixes for First Nations housing crisis

By Janet DavisonFor Canada's most famous—and outspoken—home renovator, the solution to the First Nations housing crisis is remarkably simple.

"When I heard years ago the problems they were having, to me it was like, 'Oh, OK, this is easy. Why isn't anyone else doing it?'" Mike Holmes, star of HGTV's home renovation show Holmes on Homes, said in an interview.

"We need to stop building crap. It's as simple as that."

Holmes teamed up with the Assembly of First Nations in 2010 to create a pilot project on the Whitefish Lake First Nation west of Sudbury, Ont., to build energy-efficient, environmentally friendly homes and other infrastructure. The ongoing project also aims to develop trade skills for people living on reserves.

While recent attention has focused on the grim living conditions on the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario, the First Nations housing crisis extends far beyond just the James Bay community and has gone on for years.

For Holmes and others who want to move past the politicking and fingerpointing consuming much of the public debate around the issue, solutions lie in the willingness to embrace ideas others may want to dismiss out of hand.

Maybe we can make better choices about building materials that may initially be more expensive but last longer and won't burn or be susceptible to mould.

Maybe we can consider buildings not based on a wood frame, such as steel shipping containers converted into comfortable homes.

And so on.
Comment:  For more on Native housing, see Modern Housing, Traditional Style.

Below:  "Steel shipping containers are being used to house workers at Ontario Power Generation's Lower Mattagami hydro project. The containers will later be turned into housing for the Moose Cree First Nation." (Courtesy Steve Marshall)

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