Northern Alberta community frustrated with what it calls roadblocks to new housing

Click to play video: 'Métis community in Alberta frustrated with housing situation'
Métis community in Alberta frustrated with housing situation
WATCH ABOVE: The Hamlet of Conklin says its housing situation could be improved if it received more support from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The Métis community says the regional municipality has been creating barriers. Slav Kornik has the story. – Nov 29, 2023

The Hamlet of Conklin is frustrated over what it says are roadblocks created by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) as it hopes to improve the housing situation in the Alberta community.

The Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee (CRDAC) has released the results of a survey which found that 86 per cent of residents in the hamlet are housing insecure. Homes are lacking essentials like power and running water, while some are covered in mould.

“When we get down to -25 C, I can’t stay in there because it’s too cold, so I have to look for an alternative place to stay for the night,” said Conklin resident Grace Richards.

The committee said it has managed to purchase land and build 15 modular homes through funding from the province and an oil and gas company. However, the committee said the RMWB has prevented the new homes from being moved in to the Métis community by creating roadblocks relating to permits.

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“Bureaucrats in Fort McMurray are holding us up over simple things like dry ponds and structural planning-related issues, while we have community members living in trailers with black mould,” said CRDAC CEO Scott Duguid.

“How is it that a bureaucrat in Fort McMurray who is going home to his nice home at night is telling me that I have to spend another winter like this?” Richards said.

The CRDAC said it has not been able to expedite the process despite its best effort at working with the municipality.

“Since early September, I’ve been working with the regional municipality to try to just get an inspector to come out to Conklin to give us construction completion, so that we can actually get the pilings in place,” Duguid said. “They’ve cancelled on me five different times.”

Richards said the housing situation in Conklin is dire. Thirty-two per cent of housing insecure residents are living with three generation of family members, the CRDAC said.

“One home in particular had 19 people with three generations living in it, and that is unacceptable,” Richards said.

“We are the southernmost community in the jurisdiction. I believe we’re out of sight, out of mind for the most part,” Duguid said.

“We’ve heard that from policing, we’ve heard that from sort of local jurisdictions — to say, ‘Well, you know what, it’s almost a two-hour drive to Conklin and it’s really out of the way.’ It’s kind of that.”

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The RMWB sent a statement to Global News regarding the situation.

“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing housing crisis in Conklin,” the statement reads.

“The municipality recognizes the frustration expressed by community leaders and residents with the process involving all levels of government and commits to prioritizing and supporting housing efforts in the community.”

Richards said she hopes the situation is resolved soon because a new home would be life-changing.

“I’d love to be able to walk into my home, turn on a light switch, turn on the running water — you know, wash my dishes.”

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