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More than 100 people gathered last week in Sioux Lookout for the Northern Housing Summit (NHS), an inaugural conference designed to address the housing resource shortage in northern Ontario and its impacts on the future growth of the region.
Representatives of the government, nonprofits, and the private sector attended the event, which covered affordable housing, the workforce, the environment, and attainable housing. Sioux Lookout was the case study community for the conference, with participants brainstorming and develop solutions for housing needs in northern Ontario using Sioux Lookout as its basis.
“We are honoured that everyone has come out for this event, which will not only help our community, but we hope that it will help their communities as well,” said Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance. “By studying us and learning from us they will be able to take what they’ve learned here and bring it back to their home communities.”
Lawrance said that the municipality’s job was to connect the dots by bringing people and agencies together to understand opportunities and challenges by talking with one another, ideally resolving some issues and resulting in more housing. As a result of the conference, Sioux Lookout in partnership with Lac Seul First Nation and the Natural Resources Institute of Finland will be unveiling a sustainable housing demonstration project by 2020.
Dr. Lauri Sikanen of the Natural Resources Institute of Finland said he was excited and impressed at how quickly things moved forward, saying the partnership is an inspiring example of what happens when people work together for progress with goal oriented thinking. Another partnership with the municipal economic development department and Société Économique de l’Ontario will place an employability and entrepreneurship counsellor in Sioux Lookout.
Kenora MP Bob Nault attended the conference and said it was a good opportunity. “It starts to focus people’s minds and attention to the idea that we have to find solutions to our housing shortage whether its affordable housing, whether it’s vulnerable people housing, whether it’s housing for shelters,” he said. “All these different areas are important for the economy and for quality of people’s lives.”
The subject fit well with the federal government’s national housing strategy, he said, noting Canada is working very closely with facilities for women escaping violence. “What we’re trying to do in Red Lake, for example, is look at transitional housing,” Nault explained.
Regionally, the Kenora District Services Board has applied for programs to help with housing, he added. “It was a good conference,” Nault concluded. “People really had a chance to think about solutions and think about the new way of building houses, more environmentally friendly, more structured to be energy efficient… it was well worth people getting together.”