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New opportunity could cure OCN housing issue


A new potential housing project is emerging in The Pas, one which could provide housing solutions on Opaskwayak Cree Nation and its winning awards already.
“We wanted to demonstrate our model in action,” said Alex Wilson, a coordinator for the project.
That model is of a home which plays into an old idea where homes may be built one room at a time and added on to the greater unit as they go. Standing in a construction site on the property of Waugh’s Woods, Wilson spoke about the homes as three small rooms were being built behind.
Those rooms come in a triangular shape, and are designed to be added together and can be expanded or retracted as need be, depending on the size of the family living inside. Additionally, the homes are designed to be built around a ‘hub.’ That hub is a central area that houses the mechanics such as water and sewer, with the ‘community’ branching off from that.
The homes are designed to be as economical as possible, and can include features such as compostable toilets. Additionally, the rooms are designed in a triangular formation so as to be possible to form an arch like a crescent.
“The units because of that angle that we are working with - the triangle gives us a 22-and-a-half-degree approach angle - so when we organize that…you can develop arch formations, so crescent shapes and crescents shapes are the ideal form when you orientate it slightly southwest to gain maximum solar gains throughout the day. So, we’ve built in high-end western logic in terms of building science but then our geometric response is to service the indigenous communities’ ethics, their land-based ethics, their familial ethics, their social ethics, so that’s what the housing forms responses to and facilitates,” explained Chris Tallman, a contractor and landscape architect who was working on the units at Waugh’s Woods.
One home was built on Big River First Nation northwest of Prince Albert and the design earned an award and an invitation to display their model at the EDIT 2017 (Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology) where between three and five million people are expected to pass through.
Due to the invite, the plan for the first home to be located on OCN had to be altered. A portion of that home is being built in Minnesota and will be shipped to EDIT 2017 along with the three rooms being constructed near The Pas. They will then be displayed as a featured exhibit.
Following that they will be shipped back to The Pas and after being completed the home will be set up next year in the second year of a five-year project. A site for the home has not yet been located but once it is an individual will be allowed to live in the home for a year and then provide feedback on their experiences. That feedback will be used to find areas that can be enhanced for future builds.
Over the five years the goal is to have one hub and four or five homes.
“It’s not just about one house it’s about sustainable living. The irony in Manitoba, or up here in the north at least is we’re in the boreal forest and we have a housing shortage of 700 units,” said Wilson, referring to the significant housing shortage of housing on OCN.
The project was given the green light by OCN Chief and council and it’s hoped this can allow for some solutions to the housing crisis. All the homes will be solar and the goal for each will be to live off the grid.
“They’re not tiny homes they’re sustainable homes,” said Wilson.
The current home being built will have a square footage of between 400 and 500 feet.

Trent Allen