Attawapiskat planning for housing crisis ‘round two’
Photo submitted by the Canadian Red Cross
Attawapiskat First Nation is worried about a repeat of last winter’s housing shortages after a trailer housing nearly 100 people was condemned.
As temperatures begin to drop to signify the emergence of fall and the upcoming winter, Attawapiskat First Nation is working to find housing for about 100 community members.
Earlier this year, a trailer complex housing about 100 residents was condemned by the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council due to mould. The trailers were donated to Attawapiskat by DeBeers in 2009. Almost half of the occupants have moved out, most to the healing lodge that was converted last winter to a residence.
Attawapiskat acting chief Christine Kataquapit said they are working with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada (AANDC), Mushkegowuk, and third-party consultants to develop a short-term housing solution for the displaced community members.
“We’re calling it round two,” Kataquapit said, referring to last winter’s housing crisis that made national headlines after it was revealed that some community members were expected to spend the winter in sheds and tent frame shelters.
The federal government responded a month after the community declared a state of emergency by providing funds to ship 22 modular homes, upgrade houses and retrofit the healing lodge.
This time around, the community is looking south for a housing solution after a survey was conducted.
“A lot of people are choosing to go down south,” Kataquapit said, adding that some want to stay. “We’ve asked the town of Moosonee to use their barracks. We’ve connected with Timmins Native Housing, as well as Schumacher and Kapuskasing.”
Kataquapit said the challenge is finding proper accommodations, “because we don’t want to put them in a hotel.”
The First Nation is meeting with AANDC this week in Thunder Bay to submit their proposal and discuss other possible solutions. They will also continue to speak with the southern municipalities.
The community is also developing a long-term housing strategy. Kataquapit said the community needs more than modular homes.
“We’re looking for something that would last for a long time, not temporary,” she said.
“They’re just trailers and they’re not going to last long.”
Last month, the community learned that its application with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation for a loan to build 30 housing units could not be approved because AANDC Minister John Duncan would not sign off on it.
In an email to Wawatay News, AANDC spokesperson Michelle Perron said the department was unable to sign off on the loan because the community “was not able to demonstrate the necessary capacity for the department to support their loan application.”
“We recognize that there is a need to address housing issues in Attawapiskat over the long term and while housing remains the responsibility of the First Nation, addressing the long-term housing needs of the community requires a long-term housing strategy,” Perron wrote. “We have offered repeatedly to assist the chief and council in developing that strategy.”
Kataquapit said the First Nation is now working with the federal government to develop the long-term strategy and plans on resubmitting the loan application. They hope construction of new houses will begin next year.
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