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Location: Cree Nation of Eastmain, Québec, Canada.1,200 km north of Montreal.

Project origin: This project arises from the acknowledgement that the concept of rent in Cree culture is neither clear nor obvious. Based on the experience of CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) and the Cree Housing Authority, both long involved in housing issues, and the skills and experience of the consultants and architects, the project attempted to reveal the inadequacies between the rental system requirements and the residents’ needs, understanding and expectations.

Goal: The team decided to propose a Housing Education Programme (HEP) over a period of 3 years, to improve the rent collection in Eastmain, restructure and implement a new Housing Department and Housing Policies through public and individual consultation based on participatory approach mechanisms.

Means: The initial task of this project, Phase A – of the HEP – was to summarize the existing financial arrangement regarding housing, as envisioned by CMHC, the Cree Housing Authority and the local government of Eastmain, and then to communicate  the system within the Cree community of Eastman. This involved the development of visual communication tools explaining the existing rental housing system and the organisation of a public consultation process.

Difficulties: Poor level of trust between housing administration and housing beneficiaries. Historical and cultural bias towards housing allocation and its rent payment.

Achievement: The structural, social, and cultural deficiencies inherent to the actual rental system have been identified through the Housing Education Programme, its participatory approach to find with the community adapted solutions. The HEP was completed within the given 3 years. The Housing Department was restructured, Housing Policies and new rent levels were implemented to allow for a successful running and evolution of the Housing Department and  good maintenance of the housing stock. The Housing Department does not rely any further on external consultant to run their department.

Team: Box Architectures (Isabelle Champagne & Maïti Chagny), Cree Nation of Eastmain (Mark Tivnan, Manager Band Council, Stanley Gilpin – Housing Director)

Duration: 2003 – 2005

Client: Cree Nation of Eastmain

Project cost: 250,000 USD

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