Home renovator and television star, Mike Holmes, is weighing in the housing crisis in Attawapiskat.
Holmes, who has a home renovation show on HGTV, has teamed up with the Assembly of First Nations on a project to improve housing on reserves.
The situation in Attawapiskat isn’t surprising, he said.
"I think what surprises me more is that no one seems to know what to do about it."
Holmes said remote communities in low-lying areas, like Attawapiskat, should be looking at building with concrete or cinder block instead of wood. And he said they should be using mould-resistant dry wall.
"It's building smarter," he said. "It's using products that will not mould … that's just the logical thing for me … How can we upgrade it to a smarter build?"
His said his experience working with other First Nations communities reinforces the age-old philosophy that is akin to teaching a person to fish, instead of giving that person a fish.
Holmes teamed up with the Assembly of First Nations in 2010 to create a pilot project on the Whitefish Lake First Nation west of Sudbury, Ont., to build energy-efficient, environmentally friendly homes and other infrastructure. The ongoing project also aims to develop trade skills for people living on reserves.
Education is key
"If we include them in the build — we teach them new theory, which is what I’m doing in Whitefish Lake — if we do this, they’ve done it themselves," Holmes said.
"And then we show them how to maintain it. They’re going to be more proud to keep care of it."
Holmes added "having someone who can run it and having someone who can teach them is the missing key to everything."
He noted that, by bringing in a system to oversee the building of houses — a system that will oversee good design, use of products that won’t burn or mould and are good for the environment — a proper foundation will be put in place.
"They can continue to build the next ones," he said.