Earlier this year, Cat Lake First Nation declared a state of emergency due to poor housing conditions, causing health problems and even fatalities in the community. And in March 2019, at the inaugural Restoring Our Sacred Space conference held near Calgary, Alberta, it was recognized that the First Nations housing crisis was increasing at a national level and that new and innovative solutions are desperately needed to create better outcomes for Indigenous communities.
With this in mind, Chris Maracle has been an advocate for First Nations home ownership and energy efficiency for over 30 years. His journey started as a proponent of home ownership specifically, and then evolved into equipping First Nations’ communities with the skills to build their own homes using ICFs, ultimately affording them the opportunity to build personal wealth and equity while simultaneously doing his part to address community issues like poverty, homelessness and unemployment.
This blog post will serve as a spotlight on Chris Maracle, and how he has been addressing several social issues facing First Nations’s communities by advocating for home ownership and energy efficiency and how insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are an important part of his solutions.
How Chris Maracle Has Been Helping To Solve The First Nations’ Housing Crisis
First, a bit about Chris:
Chris Maracle is a self-employed housing advisor who provides support to First Nations and the federal government across Canada. He also advises the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on building science as well.
Prior to his current role as housing advisor, Chris was the Director of Housing, Parks, Recreation and Band Property Maintenance for 17 years for the Mohawks Of The Bay Of Quinte – Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
Along the way Chris has been recognized with 18 National & Provincial Housing Awards including Canada’s Affordable Housing Award, Canada’s Energy Efficiency Award and was the first recipient of the Time Magazine & Natural Resources Canada’s “Energy Efficiency Leadership Award”. In fact, Chris has received the most Housing Awards in the history of First Nations Housing and we are very proud to note that Chris has been using Logix ICF products over the years as he has achieved this success.
As you saw above, he is a proponent of home ownership (and energy-efficient homes given the cold climates and cost-savings for the people living in these homes). Currently in First Nations communities, most of the housing stock is owned by the governing bands themselves, which makes the tenants mere renters and thus doesn’t offer a clear path to build personal wealth and equity through home ownership.
Chris says, “However, within First Nations, the Mohawk lead in terms of personal home ownership. In fact, Tyendinaga Mohawk homeowners now have $50 million in total personal equity. This traces all the way back to 1969 when the band began to re-deploy direct federal assistance funds away from the construction of rental units and towards financing the construction of privately-owned homes within the Tyendinaga Mohawk community.”
This First Nations housing program has been viewed nationally as one of the best across Canada.
However, it is Chris’s selection of ICFs, in particular, that was an important decision in the process, as you will see below.
How ICFs Can Help First Nations
During the early course of his career, Chris has helped 100s of Tyendinaga Mohawk families realize their dreams of home ownership, first by building 125 rental homes with ICFs to the highest of standards.
Chris first started using ICFs to construct rental homes as a way to keep energy costs low for tenants. Renting 10-12 new ICF homes per year eventually led to the renters, when they built their own homes, to building their own energy efficient, durable ICF homes.
Eventually this message of “better built ICF construction” (high-performance, energy-efficiency and so on) spread throughout the band and to other bands as well.
However, the high-performance, energy-efficient benefits of ICF construction is only the tip of the iceberg in this story.
One of his most recent ICF projects, the Peerless Trout senior’s home (a recent Logix Awards winner for the “Small Residential” category) was also pivotal to equipping the Peerless Trout community with the skills to now build their own ICF homes in an area where many First Nations are unemployed.
In western Canada, typically homes for First Nations communities are factory-built, often using migrant workers.
With the Peerless Trout senior’s home, Chris created a crew from within the Peerless Trout band and provided them with the necessary training in Logix ICF construction to gain the practical skills needed to this home themselves while gaining valuable employment.
In fact, this same crew is now building four Logix ICF bungalows this summer (1200 -1500 sq. ft.).
This is one of the great things about building with ICFs; with six simple construction steps in one package, and the use of minimal tools compared to wood-framed houses, it is entirely possible to build an ICF home with less skilled labor. In fact, you can even build an ICF yourself (as evidenced here).
You can read more about the design details of the Peerless Trout senior’s home here.
The Peerless Trout seniors home is also a net-zero ready home, close to producing as much clean energy as it consumes). According to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, they are up to 80% more energy efficient than standard homes.
Temperatures also remain the same longer, even in the event of a power outage, which is crucial for the First Nations’ communities living in colder northern climates.
Plus, Logix ICFs have a 4-hour fire rating (wood-framed walls burn down in minutes). And because Peerless Trout is located in a remote area prone to the dangers of wildfires, this in another important benefit.
Wrapping It Up
With great social challenges facing First Nations’ communities (from poverty to homelessness, Chris Maracle has found a solution for First Nations’ people to gain skills that lead to employment and the creation of personal wealth and equity through home ownership.
ICFs have been a key part of this process, allowing for easier builds (even during the winter) and high-performance, energy-efficient homes that meet the needs of First Nations communities.
You can reach Chris at [email protected].
Request a quote, get more information or talk to a Logix Advisor by contacting us today.