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Access among the biggest housing hurdles for remote communities

The biggest issue facing remote communities when it comes to housing is lack of access.
udges look over entries in the Installing Supply Piping Demonstration and Competitioni Wednesday at the First Nations Northern Housing Conference at the Valhalla Inn. (Jodi Lundmark,

The biggest issue facing remote communities when it comes to housing is lack of access.

"You're limited to air (travel) year round or six to eight weeks of winter road where you can haul in all your build and large materials, your fuel," said Chuck Hebert of Shibogama First Nations Council's technical services at the 12th annual First Nations Northern Housing Conference at the Vahalla Inn Wednesday afternoon.

Hosted by the First Nations Northern Housing Working Group - consisting of 10 tribal councils - the three-day conference brings together various First Nations communities to share resources and solutions to housing issues in remote northern communities.

And Hebert said that access and the lack of the skilled workers are the two biggest issues.

If the weather doesn't cooperate and communities miss the opportunity to use the winter roads, that can mean a construction project doesn't happen.

At least one community is working to address the shortage of skilled labourers.

Constance Lake First Nation received a Community Innovation Housing Award this year for their housing program that has seen 106 housing units built since 2005 in addition to a senior's complex.

The community is the main contractor and while they subcontract tasks like plumbing, heating and electrical, the remainder of the work is done by community members, who get valuable on-the-job experience.

Also receiving an Innovation Housing Award is Batchewana First Nation, which is comprised of four communities near Sault Ste. Marie.

Batchewana is being recognized for their tenant orientation process where tenants have a say in the type of house they'd like and what kind of countertops, paint and flooring they'd like.

"We feel it's going to instill pride in their home, so hopefully they'll take care of it a little better," said Lisa McCormick, tenant liaison for Batchewana.

The First Nation also conducts a two-day workshop with the tenants before they move in.

"It's not just 'here's your key, here's your house, move in, see you later,'" McCormick said.

Residents are given a walk-through of the unit and can point out any issues they see before moving in.

McCormick is also looking at addressing mold issues with their older homes. She hoped to learn ways to prevent and eliminate mold at the conference but said they are also looking at doing renovations in the older units.

Batchewana First Nation's housing department manages about 230 homes and there are another 100 privately-owned homes in the community.




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