Ucluelet Housing Development Provides Homes and More...

By: Matthew Hurley

Violet Mundy
Violet Mundy and the new Ucluelet six-plex

When the Ucluelet First Nation (pronounced You-CLUE-let) decided to move ahead with a new housing development on their reserve at Itattsoo, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, they knew they were creating more than just a structure. They were providing homes, creating jobs and attracting members back to the community.

“Our population has stayed the same over the years so we haven't had any new housing units built in over 18 years,” explained Violet Mundy, Chief Councillor for the Ucluelet First Nation. “But now, we're starting to see a younger generation wanting to come back to the reserve. We needed new housing, but it had to be done right.”

To meet the demand, in January 2006 the Ucluelet First Nation began an extensive process of community consultation and planning. “The needs of our members, including those wanting to move back to the community, greatly influenced the designs of the units,” Mundy explained. The First Nation also wanted to try something unique for larger extended families, so the project included a six-plex with a traditional central common area, which today doubles as a meeting facility.

New Jobs, New Homes

Ucluelet development
Ucluelet development

The community's desire for sustainable housing drove the design process. “We wanted quality homes, and we wanted them to last,” Mundy said. So builders used LOGIX Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), a construction method that is energy efficient, durable and perfect for mould prevention in the wet West Coast climate.

The Government of Canada helped fund the project. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada provided more than $500,000, while additional funds came from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Ucluelet First Nation. The Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation also contributed money for training band members in ICF building practices.

The community created jobs and at the same time lowered costs by drawing on their newly trained labour pool. “We've had problems attracting labour to Ucluelet,“ Mundy said, “But by having our own contractors involved from start to finish, they were taught a skill and how to run a business.”

Not long after the development's 24 units were completed in October 2008, the Ucluelet First Nation was recognized for their initiative and creativity with a CMHC Housing Award. When asked how the project has impacted the community, Mundy was not short on answers. ”I believe that our members are proud of what has been accomplished,” she said, “and they have pride in the homes that we had a part in designing and building, in the skills developed — we have a sense of well being from actually completing a project that was on time and on budget.”

Ucluelet First Nation Housing Quick Facts

  • Recycled materials and local labour lowered the building costs from $200+ per square foot to $156.87 per square foot.
  • The Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) walls used in the development have several advantages:
    • High energy efficiency (lower utility costs);
    • Durability (expected service life of 100+ years);
    • Increased comfort (consistent temperature);
    • Strength (8.5 times stronger than wood-framed buildings); and,
    • Prevents mould and eliminates rot.
  • The new homes' radiant-floor heating, low-flow toilets and solar panels increase energy efficiency and lower costs.
  • The specially designed landscapes minimize storm-water runoff, which can pollute local waterways.