Non-renewable resource development, homelessness and the potential for community-based housing governance and policy in the Northwest Territories, Canada

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area, North Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, public policy, resource development, homeless

Principal Investigator: Freeman, Lisa (1)
Licence Number: 16181
Organization: Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Licenced Year(s): 2017
Issued: Oct 19, 2017
Project Team: Julia Christensen (Co-Principal Investigator, Memorial University)

Objective(s): To explore the current housing policy landscape in the NWT as it pertains to the provision of public and subsidized housing, including supportive/transitional housing programs in Yellowknife, and to analyze the impacts that non-renewable resource development has had on affordable, private housing in the NWT.

Project Description: The relationship between resource development, affordable housing and government interventions in northern communities is a long and complicated one. Housing insecurity has been a concern in the Northwest Territories (NWT) since the establishment of settlements and the introduction of state-run housing programs in the mid-20th century. Chronic housing need is worsening in many settlement communities while homelessness is on the rise in urbanizing northern centres. There has been significant public concern regarding the impact that oil, gas and diamond mining industries have on accessible and affordable housing, particularly in Inuvik and Yellowknife.

The purpose of this research is threefold: 1) to explore the current housing policy landscape in the NWT as it pertains to the provision of public and subsidized housing, including supportive/transitional housing programs in Yellowknife, the largest NWT community; 2) to analyze the impacts that non-renewable resource development has had on affordable, private housing in the NWT; and 3) to explores various means to mitigate negative impacts, including recommendations for policy collaborations between northern communities, governments and Industry, as well as Industry requirements to include housing affordability-plans within their corporate responsibility portfolios. Within the scope of this research, the team will: assess contemporary NWT housing policy, including the NWT Housing Corporation’s new measures that respond to rental arrears in public housing; assess conflicts between housing policy and employment within the non-renewable resource development sector; examine the specific effect the dynamics of non-renewable resources has on housing in Inuvik and Yellowknife; and, engage with policymakers and frontline workers to advance innovative policy recommendations within the context of NWT policy and economic landscape.

Local involvement will be actively sought through: 1) local community research assistants; 2) opportunities for both one-on-one and workshop-based input from community members; 3) a research partnership with a local non-governmental organization (NGO) (Alternatives North); and, 4) an extensive communications and engagement plan.

Community-based research assistants will assist with primary and secondary data gathering, the maintenance of a project website, and communications with community organizations and various levels of government. The research assistants will have the opportunity to gain: interview skills, research skills (by collating data), academic writing skills (helping to write a literature review), and team-building work. In addition, these positions will support research assistants and students in their academic training by providing a supportive environment to strengthen an understanding of resource development, northern housing and government policies while learning how to make research findings accessible to a broad audience of community members, policy makers, and academics.

This project will provide information to northerners on innovative practices implemented in other parts of the circumpolar North and the world. This will allow northerners to compare their particular situation to others and to better understand options available. Active communication in-person, through community-based workshops, via email newsletter and through the website with the research partner (Alternatives North), community-based organizations and policymakers from Indigenous, municipal and territorial governments will ensure that the research and findings are consistently made available to communities over the course of the research.

Alternatives North has already been consulted on the proposed research aim and objectives, and an advisory committee of Alternatives North members will be appointed to provide guidance and input on the project throughout its duration. This committee will also provide an important role as an interlocutor between Alternatives North and other community-based organizations and the research. The community partners will also be key stakeholders for the community-engaged graphic designer, helping to create space for community consultations and providing insight into the most appropriate ways to make research accessible.

Active communication in-person, through community-based workshops, via email newsletter and through the website with the research partner (Alternatives North), community-based organizations and policymakers from Indigenous, municipal and territorial governments will ensure that the research and findings are consistently made available to communities over the course of the research.

The research communication includes an innovative approach by working with a social justice and community-engaged graphic designer. By working with a graphic designer experienced in community engagement, the research team will be able to create policy documents (whether in the form of a report, a poster, a pamphlet) that will be created with and for the community partners. This specific type of collaboration between researchers, graphic designers and community partners has been proven to effectively make research accessible and available to impacted communities.

When the design portion is complete, the research team will make the findings available through a formal launch, including email updates to research partners, coordinated postings on partner and project websites, e-newsletters, press releases to local (CBC North) and national media. The research team will also mail hardcopies of the report to community partners, policy makers and research stakeholders, as requested. In addition, the team will keep all of the community partners, stakeholders, and (interested) research participants apprise of the research through quarterly updates through e-newsletters, emails, and website updates.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from October 11, 2017 to December 31, 2017.