Housing is a critical priority for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN). Existing one-size-fits-all solutions have failed to provide YKDFN members with enough adequate, affordable and appropriate housing. Solutions are needed that match the community’s unique climatic, geographic and cultural situation.
To address this, YKDFN is developing a housing strategy that gives community members control over their own housing. The YKDFN Housing Needs Assessment project will provide that strategy’s foundation by capturing the lived experience and needs of community members. The result will be a model for collecting community-based data to inform evidence-based housing decisions.
3 Key Innovations
Create a housing needs assessment model for Yellowknives Dene First Nation.
Assess the community’s housing needs using the new assessment tool to capture the lived experience and needs of community members.
Integrate the assessment data into the Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s Housing Strategy, including informing new goals and milestones.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Capturing the lived experience of community members
The YKDFN communities of N’Dilo and Dettah are located near Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. Existing government housing approaches have failed to provide community members in N'Dilo and Dettah with enough adequate, affordable and appropriate housing. As a result, many have been unable to stay in their communities throughout their lives. This breaks their critical connection to their land, community and culture.
The YKDFN’s Housing Needs Assessment project is a community-based needs assessment that seeks to capture the lived experience of community members around housing. It can reflect their struggle to obtain adequate housing and determine specific, culturally appropriate housing needs. That data can help the YKDFN Housing Strategy create housing solutions that better match the needs of the community.
Putting community members in control of their own housing
With funding from the National Housing Strategy Research and Planning Fund, the project will answer the following questions:
- What is a culturally appropriate way to determine occupant satisfaction in housing?
- How do conceptualizations of housing differ across demographic groups?
- What metrics exist within YKDFN to evaluate housing?
- Which metrics are appropriate for each community?
- What are the differences between existing, standardized measures and community-based evaluations and their findings?
- What are the gaps in the housing system and policy?
The results will provide the foundation for the YKDFN Housing Strategy. This will put community members in control of all stages of their own housing. This includes needs assessment, planning, design, building and governance.
Emphasizing cultural knowledge and lived experience
The project will use a mixed-methods approach that is based on community planning and participatory action research. This approach emphasizes cultural knowledge and the lived experiences of community members, while de-emphasizing technical expertise.
The project will occur over 3 interconnected phases:
- First, the project team will co-develop the Housing Needs Assessment survey tool with community members. The created metrics will reflect the distinct goals and priorities of YKDFN members and their knowledge of the current housing system. This will allow members to record their housing priorities in a way that reflects community understandings of home.
- Next, the baseline data will be collected. The project will develop sampling methodology to ensure that different demographic groups are represented. This will build understanding of how different individuals respond to their homes. It will also help create targeted solutions for specific groups in a way that also helps them access important services.
- Finally, the collected data will be analysed in 2 different ways. An analysis of existing need will provide a basis for goal-setting and action planning. Addressing these targets and building on community-identified priorities will ensure the YKDFN Housing Strategy’s outcomes are evidence-based and effective. The second analysis will explore the theory of how assessment methods and assumptions affect final outcomes.
The result will be a model for collecting locally relevant data and undertaking priority- and evidence-based decision-making in housing.
Shaping housing policy to the needs and experiences of communities
The primary intended audience for the research results is the YKDFN. The data from the study will help them to build housing that meets the needs of their community members. The data may or may not be scalable to other situations, but a process template will be developed during the project. This template is designed to guide other northern Indigenous communities through the process of assessing their own housing needs.
The project’s principles are also applicable on a wider scale. For instance, they could help policy-makers learn to shape housing policy according to the needs and experiences of communities. This could make it useful to the Government of the Northwest Territories, other territorial/provincial governments and the federal government.