Housing problems raise national attention
Attawapiskat’s “round two” in the James Bay community’s housing crisis and other housing problems across Nishnawbe Aski Nation get an honourable mention as Wawatay’s news story of the year.
“A lot of people are choosing to go down south,” said Attawapiskat acting chief Christine Kataquapit this past September as the community looked for housing for about 100 community members after their trailer complex was condemned by the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council due to mould contamination.
But about a month later the federal government rejected the plan to send residents south, instead offering up to $300,000 in assistance and support for upgrades and repairs necessary to ensure the trailer complex can provide warm, safe shelter this winter.
Kataquapit said the funds committed to repair the trailers are “not enough.” “Especially if you consider the cost of materials and to bring them up,” she said.
Currently, about 50 people remain in the trailers while most who had to leave due to health concerns are either staying at the community healing lodge or with family. A small number are staying with family in Moosonee for the winter season. That comes after last winter’s housing shortage in the community resulted in a national outcry and a 3rd party manager being installed in the First Nation.
Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit said the housing conditions in some communities are “terrible.”
“This should not be happening in this day and age,” Louttit said at the Nov. 13-15 Special Chiefs Assembly. “We all know the situation on (housing) in Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat exists in every NAN community — overcrowding, poor construction, poor land, materials below standard.”
Louttit said there is currently an estimated backlog of 5,000 homes needed across NAN territory based on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website data. “Five-thousand (housing units) using Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation costing model is equivalent to about $1.2 billion,” Louttit said. “That excludes infrastructure such as roads, hydro, water and sewer, which is another $2 billion when you add that on.”
Louttit said many of the communities are also running out of subdivision space to build new homes on.
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