STANDOFF - Applications are now being accepted for 25 new homes that are being built in the giant BTH Building Systems warehouse in Standoff, on the Blood Reserve.
The $6.5 million-dollar initiative to replace ageing, dilapidated or fire damaged homes and to create more housing inventory on the reserve began July 3, according to Project Manager Dale Murphy.
The money for the project comes from the Federal Government, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and from Blood Tribe Housing.
"Our timeline is that we want to be done by Dec. 31," says Murphy. "We've already pushed out five houses as of now...and we're working on another five."
The homes all follow one floorplan; 1,200 square feet, with four bedrooms including a master bedroom with a walk-in closet, one bathroom, kitchen, laundry, and a spacious living room area. All will be placed on a foundation, allowing for future basement development.
Anyone interested in purchasing a home must fill out an application form, and follow certain guidelines, according to Blood Tribe Housing Director Rachel Tailfeathers.
"The units are for tribal members...so right now the application is open, and we will be closing it in November. And then we have a housing panel that will select the units for our tribal members."
The panel works with social development, children's services, health services, and with various seniors' programs to determine what each family needs. A point system is applied, and those with the most points become those first in line for a home. References are required, as is proof of income to be selected for a 25-year mortgage.
Those selected to purchase one of the new homes, will also have to take a home maintenance training course, says Tailfeathers.
"With the new units, just how to care for the plumbing, the bathroom...cleaning your soffits or eavestroughs due to spring/fall weather...because we have a lot of people that move in and they need some kind of guidance on how to maintain a new unit."
Beyond the selection process, she says there's a huge need for housing on the reserve - not just in Standoff - but closer to Cardston and in other, more remote areas.
"The population of our tribe is around 13,000. On reserve, basically about 5,000. And the housing inventory is around 1,400 units, so you can obviously know the demand is there from that ratio."
Aside from the simply building the homes, she says it's wonderful to have more people in Standoff employed.
"To have an opportunity for our people to work on their own units, and the pride that they have...the pride and care and dedication they have is very well received."
Beyond the current project, there are already plans for another 25 homes to be built in 2019, and the hope is to eventually hire about 80 people to work in the massive warehouse, according to Murphy.
"I don't think people realize, when we employ one production worker he's helping out his immediate family and his mother-in-law and it's a little chain that happens. You see these guys walk out of here on payday or the next day. They know they did a good job. They have a lot of pride in their work."
Blood Tribe Councillor Floyd Big Head who is also a Journeyman/Electrician, hopes that if the current project and the next go well, that the warehouse that sat idle for nearly 20 years where the homes are currently being built, can eventually be used to create a profitable southern Alberta home-building business.
"It's endless what we can do here. Let's start making some kind of initiative here and in the long run it can be something we're proud of...the main thing is getting our people working.
"I believe that with good planning, good marketing, go out there and really push, I don't see why we can't build houses for all over western Canada."
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