Indigenous groups and governments are increasingly exploring alternative and more holistic ways of addressing housing challenges within their communities. This document, along with other complementary tools offered by Ecotrust Canada, provide a series of resources that can be drawn upon and adapted by communities to identify and articulate housing ecosystems, to develop housing ecosystem strategies, and ultimately to monitor improvements in housing-related processes utilizing locally derived indicators of success.
The Indigenous Home-Lands (IHL) team at Ecotrust Canada has developed a housing ecosystem overview which takes into account the interconnected nature of housing with broader community and territorial processes and aspirations. This approach recognizes that housing, because of its link to the economic, social, and cultural well-being of a community, is one of the key leverage points for systems change and social innovation. The primary purpose of developing a housing eco-system overview is to organize pre-existing community level knowledge and information into an actionable framework that brings together previously disparate information, enabling a cross-sectoral understanding of the needs, assets, and opportunities that exist territorially such that they can be formulated into integrated housing ecosystem strategies.
In developing this tool, IHL and our partners are seeking to advance Indigenous self-determination by democratizing information and processes that can serve to empower Indigenous groups and governments in relation to housing and community development. In doing so, we encourage communities to adapt and revise these documents, processes and methods in ways that work best for them. We recognize also that enacting a housing ecosystem-based approach within the context of extreme housing quality and quantity shortages can be a challenge for communities with already overstretched staffing and resources. However, we believe that it is an approach worthy of consideration, and one which can be carried out alongside and in conjunction with other practical measures aimed toward ameliorating existing housing conditions.
As an example of what a housing ecosystem overview and strategy development can look like, please refer to the latest report prepared by IHL for the Yunesit’in Government: Yuneŝit’in Housing Ecosystem Overview and Strategy Development (2020)
The Process: Developing a Housing Ecosystem Overview and Strategy
Phase I: Preliminary Research and Development
The first step in developing a housing ecosystem overview is to build the informational foundation upon which an analysis and strategy can be formulated. Methods for gathering and organizing this information can include community workshops/focus groups, interviews, questionnaires/surveys, and a comprehensive review of existing documents and reports, including, for example, Comprehensive Community Plans (CCPs).
Ecotrust Canada, IHL and partners have developed a series of information gathering resources that communities can adapt and utilize to fit their specific needs and contexts. These include:
- A housing ecosystem overview assessment questionnaire, to be completed by Indigenous governments or staff, which offers a snapshot in time of the housing ecosystem at the community and territorial level (Annex A)
- A household/community member survey template that can be adapted and delivered in communities
- An example housing ecosystem overview and strategy development report, delivered by IHL for partner Yunesit’in First Nation
- A housing ecosystem monitoring and evaluation framework (forthcoming)
- A ‘housing energy assessment’ survey template (forthcoming)
No one method of information gathering can be fully relied upon in order to generate a housing ecosystem strategy. The more of the above methods and sources that can be drawn upon in order to ‘triangulate’ information, the greater the reliability and validity of that piece of information. In other words, when different methods and sources of information converge on an answer and reinforce one another, the greater confidence groups can have in building a housing ecosystem strategy around that information point.
The housing ecosystem overview offers a way of organizing all of this information into an intuitive format that identifies and articulates the complex interactions between four categories: Housing, Homelands, People, and Governance.
Phase II: Strategy Action Development
Once all of the information has been organized into the housing ecosystem overview categories, it can then be further assessed and organized into a framework which identifies Needs, Assets, and Opportunities. This approach aims to put the strengths and assets of the community front and centre as the focal points for actionable solutions and strategies to address underlying needs.
Organizing information on housing, homelands, people, and governance into the categories of needs, assets, and opportunities allows for an analysis which identifies real and potential relationships within the housing ecosystem.
These can be thought of as critical linking strategies. That is, in order to create a strong housing ecosystem which satisfies diverse Needs, a community can leverage its existing Assets to develop and realize new Opportunities.
For an example of critical linking strategies, please refer to the Yunesit’in Housing Ecosystem Overview and Strategy Development report.
Phase III: Implementation
Implementation of housing ecosystem strategies may require the development of feasibility studies in order to ensure actions are financially achievable. However, it is important also to recognize that the implementation of a housing ecosystem strategy may require initiatives and enterprises that build not only financial value, but also cultural, social and ecological value. While all efforts should be made to realize these efforts in a cost-effective manner, feasibility studies need to articulate community aspirations and values and factor them into the cost analyses of any project. Ultimately, increased costs to housing construction processes or other related enterprises may be justified within a systems approach to housing if community indicators of success are being achieved. As such, a critical process will be community engagement and participatory indicator development such that community member’s inputs, aspirations, and values are actively driving the development of a housing ecosystem strategy and the monitoring of its implementation.
IHL is currently working with community partners to establish a culturally-appropriate evaluative framework and methodology that highlights diverse practices of social innovation and measures, in ways that are locally meaningful, how these practices serve as pathways toward self-determination and community empowerment.
For further information and resources
Contact — Anthony Persaud, Associate Director, Ecotrust Canada, Indigenous Home-Lands Initiative
The Indigenous Home-Lands initiative has been made possible with the generous support of the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia.