By Roman Hayter

A new project will focus on developing pathways toward housing self-sufficiency in northern communities. The project will be led by a partnership that will bring together several First Nations in Saskatchewan along with a team of researchers from the University of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan University.

The Harvest to House project is based on the idea of sustainable, healthy housing in the North. “It all began with conversations with our Indigenous community partners in Saskatchewan and other partners in and around Ontario as well, talking about the need for quality indoor air and housing in the north,” said Sarah Haines from the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto.

The program aims to solve the issue of supply and demand for housing materials in the north. “With our northern communities, we often see an issue in the supply and demand of actual housing materials, so getting those materials actually available in the north is kind of what started this,” explained Haines.

The project’s researchers connected with several First Nations, including the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, the James Smith Cree Nation, the Wahpeton Dakota Nation, and the Montreal Lake Cree Nation. Conversations with the remaining Prince Albert Grand Council First Nations and communities are ongoing.

“There’s also lots of issues with overcrowding, so many people are in the same home, so we want to look into ways to design homes differently, perhaps for this idea of people coming and going from the houses as well, and perhaps there’s a different way to design the homes that are more appropriate for the community,” Haines said. The project is funded by the Connaught Global Challenge Award, and the project has received $249,000 to support it.