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Habitat for Humanity building homes, skills at Saugeen First Nation

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Construction of four Habitat for Humanity homes at Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation comes with the usual expectation that homeowners will work on their homes, alongside volunteers and skilled labour.

These builds will also include up to 10 Indigenous community members aged 18 to 30, from Saugeen and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation at Cape Croker, or Neyaashiinigmiing, under a Habitat pilot to encourage an interest in the trades.

Two 1,400-square-foot three-bedroom homes and two 1,600-plus sq.-ft. four-bedroom homes are being built at Saugeen, with completion by Thanksgiving, said Greg Fryer, Habitat for Humanity Grey-Bruce’s executive director.

They’re all being built at once, with work staggered as crews move from one to the next. Each will be a single-storey home, with a four-foot crawlspace for storage and a place for some of the building mechanicals.

They’ll be insulated beyond building code requirements and use Energy Star windows, doors and appliances to reduce energy costs. They’ll have propane furnaces capable of converting to natural gas once that fuel becomes available.

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Families selected by the chief and council in each community must provide 500 hours of labour on their homes. The homeowners will select the home finishes.

“The partnership we see expanding next year and to future years to address their housing need,” Fryer said of the Saugeen community. “As they acquire funding through CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), they are able to hire us as a contractor.”

Habitat has two paid tradespeople and has hired people from Saugeen and Cape Croker to work with them. The volunteers and in-kind donations of materials help lower costs, he said.

Habitat is paid by the band to be the builder; it’s not the mortgage-holder, as it would be in the traditional Habitat model. The band will hold the mortgages and after 20 years of payments, homeowners will receive their certificates of possession for their properties.

This model has been used to build 13 homes at the Cape, with four more starting next month, Fryer said.

The skills-training pilot, which runs in tandem with the builds, aims to encourage young people to pursue the trades and make them more employable.

Habitat will provide classroom training which will lead to health and safety and other micro-certifications. Basic house-building skills will be introduced, reinforced by hands-on, job-site experience.

The homeowners on these builds, as on all Habitat builds, will be asked participate in home-ownership courses which cover personal finance and budgets, insurance, estates, wills and powers of attorney, and home maintenance.

Up to 10 people will be allowed on-site, wear masks if two-metre distancing can’t be maintained, and mandatory eye protection. Only community members may volunteer on these worksites, given the ongoing pandemic virus threat, Fryer said.

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