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Family housing project on Big Grassy unique


Community members on the Big Grassy First Nation, near Morson, have good reason to smile these days after the official opening of a housing project there last week.

The nine-unit structure, including four single family homes and one five-unit complex, was built by the community.

"This was a unique project in the way that community members built it--from the planning to the finished product," Vernon Tuesday, economic development officer for Big Grassy, noted yesterday.

Developed under the federal On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program, the housing project was assisted by the Independent First Nations Alliance (INFA), an engineering development firm based in Sioux Lookout.

"We had total control of the project. It was really great," Tuesday said. "The tenants even got to pick the design they wanted for their unit."

He added the tenants were pre-selected on an "as-need" basis before the housing project began.

Nancy Adderley, marketing and communications consultant with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp., said the project was a significant one because its outcome will have a lasting effect on the community’s population and its ability to further new skills.

"What’s significant is that it used 100 percent aboriginal labour and resources. The construction team was drawn, for the most part, from Big Grassy First Nations," she noted.

"There was a lot of significant training involved with community members developing construction skills, and that increased the significance of the project," she added.

Adderley also said Big Grassy residents will see this project as their own as opposed to one outsiders came in and built for them.

"They were building for their families, neighbours, and elders," she stressed. "They see [the project] as their units, not government units."

Meanwhile, Tuesday said the four homes are now in use, with the five-unit complex awaiting additional building supplies from eastern Ontario.

"There are some deficiencies yet. We are waiting for materials to come from Montreal and we all know what’s going on down there," he remarked.

The total capital cost of the nine-unit project is $1,081,677. The project is financed by a National Housing Act (NHA) insured mortgage loan of $849,177.

The loan is guaranteed by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and is insured by CMHC under the NHA.

The federal government also will provide annual federal subsidies totalling $44,861.

Big Grassy contributed $220,000 in cash equity and $12,500 in land equity toward the cost of the project.

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