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NAN and Ryerson University team up on housing project

Process will recognize First Nations' unique needs, geography and culture

TORONTO — Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Ryerson University's Together Design Lab have announced a new collaborative housing partnership.

The NAN Housing Strategy is a three-year project which the partners say "will support First Nations' right to self-determination in housing systems" by developing action plans at the community level that recognize their specific needs, geography and culture. 

In a joint announcement, they said the strategy will centre around First Nations' knowledge and lived experience, and will support self-determination in the planning, governance and design of housing.

"Housing is a universal human right, but most of our communities suffer from severe overcrowding and substandard living conditions that have resulted in a collective state of emergency across NAN territory," said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.

According to a news release, the strategy has five goals:

  1. Develop a tripartite housing accord between NAN, Ontario and Canada, recognizing the rights and obligations of all parties in securing safe and healthy housing
  2. Create inclusive occupant-focused housing needs assessment tools and establish community-based, long-term housing plans
  3. Vision appropriate design to match diverse demographic needs and investigate innovative materials
  4. Establish peer-support networks and support local housing experts to build capacity between and among First Nation people in the north
  5. Identify desired changes in government program design, alternative funding mechanisms, and advocate for systems change

Dr. Shelagh McCartney, an assistant professor in Ryerson's Faculty of Community Services, said it's well-known that an on-reserve housing crisis exists, but "the way it is defined and understood in communities on the one hand and by the government on the other is varied and ultimately describes a different crisis."

McCartney said there is no one solution to the crisis.

"We look forward to working with NAN and the FIrst Nations in their territory to champion community-developed processes and priorities unique to each First Nation," she said.

McCartney and a research team laid some groundwork for the project with a December 2016 to September 2017 study that identified criteria for creating a housing evaluation framework for First Nations.

The study was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Ryerson and NAN recently received another SSHRC grant to pilot the evaluation process.

At a meeting in June, NAN chiefs voted to expand the pilot to a full strategy.



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