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(Visual: A backhoe is digging dirt)

Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay, Ont. is building an ambitious 21-home subdivision.

 (Visual: A group of leaders sit around a conference table)

Instead of giving the contract to one bidder, local leaders had a unique idea.

(Visual: A group stands giving the thumbs-up sign)

Eight local contractors shared the work each building one house in 2016.

(Visual: A man is painting the kitchen wall)

The goal was to get contractors working together and hire as many community members as possible.

(Visual: A man is standing, smiling, in front of houses)

Contractors willingly shared their equipment, expertise and labour with each other.

(Visual: A woman is standing, smiling in front of a house)

The builders have hired and trained nearly 40 local residents between them.

(Visual: A man is using a table saw to cut wood)

Each construction phase provides four months of steady employment.

(Visual: “Fort William First Nation” flag blows in the wind)

The community of 2,300 has significantly increased its pool of skilled workers.

(Visual: A woman is sitting with a dog on the front step of a house)

The new three bedroom homes have high-efficiency heating equipment to reduce costs.

(Visual: A mother and her children stand in the doorway of a house)

Phase two will provide 11 more homes to families in the community.

(Visual: Two children are playing, smiling, on the front step of a house)

CMHC’s Section 95 program supported the project.

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June 20, 2017

More builders, more benefits for families in Fort William First Nation

Competition can be fierce when bidding for contracts, but a small community near Thunder Bay has found a way to get bidders working together. Supported by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Section 95 program, Fort William First Nation is building an ambitious 21-home subdivision. This community project will increase the supply of safe and affordable housing, but it uses an unconventional approach.

Rather than offer the project to a single contractor, Fort William decided to share the work among 8 local builders. The goal was to get the contractors to work together and hire as many community members as possible. This kept money in the community while creating new family homes. Each of the 8 builders built 1 home in 2016, and this year they will complete 11 homes with phase 2.

The builders have hired and trained nearly 40 local residents between them, and each construction phase provides 4 months of steady employment. Being responsible for the supervision and safety of new employees had challenges, but investments are paying off. The small 2,300-member community has significantly increased its pool of skilled workers.

Hiring local also meant that young people could easily walk to the job site and earn extra cash at various stages of construction. Two young women hired in 2016 developed an interest in construction that will likely lead to careers in the field. In addition to new hires, the project also employed local technicians, surveyors and heavy equipment operators for site services, sewer, water and road infrastructure.

A different kind of process

There was initially some competition as each contractor tried to be first to frame their building. This soon evolved into a collaborative effort as contractors willingly shared their equipment, expertise and labour. Since many small builders can’t afford to own every possible tool, sharing made everyone more efficient. They also saved time by teaming up to raise heavy wall sections and roof trusses.

In a small community where everyone knows each other, there’s a shared desire to create the best homes possible. The attractive new 3 bedroom bungalows are well insulated and have high-efficiency heating equipment to reduce operating costs.

Overall, the initiative continues to be a huge success. It’s providing quality homes, fostering practical skills and encouraging collaboration and pride within the community.

For more information on this project’s funding, visit CMHC’s Non-Profit Housing Program.