Housing, communities and resource development

Non-Renewable Resource Development, Homelessness & the Potential for Community-Based Housing Governance and Policy in the Northwest Territories, Canada

Project Co-Leads:
Lisa Freeman, Department of Criminology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (lisa.freeman@kpu.ca)
Julia Christensen, Assistant Professor, Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland  (julia.christensen@gmail.com)

Research Assistants and students: Vanessa Sloan Morgan, graduate student at Queen’s University and Research Associate at University of Northern British Columbia


Community Partners:  Alternatives North, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Other team members:  Una Lee, graphic designer, And Also Too Agency

Project timeline: December 2016 to February 2018 (extended to 2019)

Project locations: Inuvik, NT,  Yellowknife, NT and  Baker Lake, NU

Updates August 2019

Pamphlet “What is Affordable Housing in Yellowknife” August 2019

Pamphlet for ReSDA Housing project 2019 (pdf format)

Poster Layout2Pamphlet ReSDA Housing Project 2019

More details on the pamphlet and project updates at affordablehousingyk.org

Presentation at the Canadian Alliance to End Homeless (CAEH) 2018 conference (November 5, 2018).

Project Brief – 2018

Freeman and Christensen-Research Report

Project Summary

The relationship between resource development, affordable housing and government interventions in northern communities is a long and complicated one. Housing insecurity has been a concern in the Northwest Territories (NWT) since the establishment of settlements and the introduction of state-run housing programs in the mid-20th century. Chronic housing need is worsening in many settlement communities while homelessness is on the rise in urbanizing northern centres. There has been significant public concern regarding the impact that oil, gas and diamond mining industries have on accessible and affordable housing, particularly in Inuvik and Yellowknife. The purpose of this research is threefold: 1) to explore the current housing policy landscape  in  the  NWT  as  it  pertains  to  the  provision  of  public  and  subsidized  housing,  including supportive/transitional housing programs in Yellowknife, the largest NWT community, and 2) to analyze the impacts that non-renewable resource development has had on affordable, private housing in the NWT; and 3) to explores various means to mitigate negative impacts, including recommendations for  policy  collaborations  between northern  communities, governments and Industry,  as  well  as  Industry  requirements to  include  housing  affordability-plans  within  their corporate responsibility portfolios. Within the scope of this research, they will: assess contemporary NWT housing policy; assess conflicts between housing policy and employment within the non-­‐ renewable  resource  development  sector;  examine  the  specific  effect  the  dynamics  of  non-renewable resources has on housing in Inuvik and Yellowknife; and, engage with policymakers and frontline workers to advance innovative policy recommendations within the context of NWT policy and economic landscape.


This project directly relates to the objects of the ReSDA Network in two principal ways: first, it examines potential benefits from resource development in terms of housing options, availability, and accessibility; and, second it will focus on making our research readily accessible to affected communities. This project will also provide information to northerners on innovative practices implemented in other parts of the circumpolar North and the world. This will allow northerners to compare their particular situation to others and to better understand options available. Finally, active communication with our research partner, community-‐based organizations and policymakers from Indigenous, municipal and territorial governments will ensure that the research and findings are consistently made available to communities over the course of the research.

The purpose of this research is:

  1. to explore the current housing policy landscape in the NWT as it pertains to the provision of public and subsidized housing, including supportive/transitional housing programs in Yellowknife, the largest NWT community,
  2. to assess the gap between policy intentions and outcomes in Inuvik and Yellowknife,
  3. to analyze the impacts that non-­‐renewable resource development has had on affordable, private housing in the NWT; and
  4. to explore various means to mitigate negative impacts, including recommendations for policy collaborations between northern communities, governments and Industry, as well as Industry requirements to include housing affordability-plans within their corporate responsibility portfolios.

Within the scope of this research, the research team will: assess contemporary NWT housing policy, including the NWT Housing Corporation’s new measures that respond to rental arrears in public housing; assess conflicts between housing policy and employment within the non-renewable resource development sector; examine the specific effect the dynamics of non-­‐renewable resources has on housing in Inuvik and Yellowknife; and, engage with policymakers and frontline workers to advance innovative policy recommendations within the context of NWT policy and economic landscape. The research conducted in Inuvik and Yellowknife will be a starting point for a  broader  research  agenda  that  will  focus  on  the  relationship  between  housing  policy  and resource  development  in  other  Northern  communities,  like  but  not  limited  to  Baker Lake, Nunavut.


This research project will commence in December 2016 and will be completed by February 2018. They will conduct qualitative research using targeted sampling, open-­‐ended interviews, and content analysis. The following plan of work includes the time frame for research and methodologies.

December 2016 / January 2016: Preliminary Inquiries and Research Development

Lisa Freeman will begin the initial stages of research including but not limited to: building a working relationship with our community partner Alternatives North, hiring 2 research assistants, gaining ethics approval from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Lisa Freeman’s home university), and outlining areas of research for gap analysis.

January to May 2017: Literature & Initial Stages of Gap Analysis

A (graduate student) Research Assistant will conduct policy research for initial gap analysis and for literature review.

Research Assistant collect secondary source data such as: policy documents, statistical information, and an extensive literature review of housing and resource development in the Canadian and Provincial North, as well as similar regions in the circumpolar North (for example, Alaska, Greenland and Northern Scandinavia).

Co-investigators Lisa Freeman and Julia Christensen (with help from RA) will write a literature review and gap analysis on policy, resource development and housing in Inuvik and Yellowknife, contextualizing these communities with attention provide to other Northern communities.

Lisa Freeman will meet with Alternatives North in Yellowknife (May 2017) to present gap analysis, organize research interviews, and discuss the types of material resources that would be useful in sharing research findings.

June – October 2017

Julia Christensen (or Lisa Freeman) will present the research findings developed through a gap analysis at the International Association of Arctic Social Sciences ICASS Meeting in 2017).

Coinvestigators will  conduct  research  interview  between  July  2017  –  October  2017.  Research interviews will likely be done in two separate time frames by each co-investigator. Lisa Freeman will conduct research interviews in July – August 2017 and Julia Christensen will conduct interviews in September – October 2017.

November 2017 – February 2018: Preliminary Findings

  • A graduate student RA will transcribe all research interviews.
  • Draft of preliminary findings will be presented to research partner.
  • Solicit feedback on findings from participants and community organizations in a follow-­‐up field visit with lead researchers Julia Christensen and Lisa Freeman.
  • Community engaged graphic designer will meet with community partner in Yellowknife, discussing research and working with the community to assess the best type of outreach material required to disseminate research.
  • Lead researchers will start writing up analysis and articles for publications.
  • Two articles will be started for peer-­‐reviewed academic journals.
  • One policy report will be submitted to community partners and research participants, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA – B.C or Saskatchewan offices).
  • Two (accessibly  written)  journalistic  articles  will  be  submitted  to  Canadian  political magazines such as Canadian Dimension, Briarpatch and the Walrus.
  • Graphic designer will complete outreach documents, send to community partners and post on project website.

February 2018 (and beyond):

An advisory committee of Alternatives North members has been appointed to provide guidance and input on the project throughout its duration. This committee will also provide an important role as an interlocutor between Alternatives North and other community-­‐based organizations and the research. The community partners will also be key stakeholders for our graphic designer, helping to create space for community consultations and providing insight into the most appropriate ways to make research accessible.

Research for the project to be completed by February 2018

Anticipated Outcomes

This research will have policy implications for both the public and private sector. The researchers are considering the impact that resource development has on housing and are interviewing communities who are most impacted and will focus on specific changes to policy, housing forms, and means of communication that will be beneficial to community members, government and industry.  Thus,  they  will  explore  the  potential  for  diverting  resource  funds  to  Single  Room Occupancy (SRO) housing for marginally houses northern workers, opportunities for public private collaboration regarding Indigenous/northern self-determination around housing and will consider the potential for self-government and community house to address core housing need in northern communities. Engaging directly with the communities impacted by resource development and will be able to examine the role of rental housing monopolies in resource contexts, the how rectify the lack of coordination between government and industry, and how industry can respond to volatility in resource development and create long-term plans for housing sustainability for workers. Since they are incorporating a collaborative and community-engaged approach, this research will provide opportunity to be capacity building and community impacts by addressing challenges that the resource development industry has in affecting housing affordability. Collaborating with Alternatives North will provide a long term partnership that will enable our research to uniquely reflect the local issues in both Inuvik and Yellowknife. They will construct their research questions, direction, and focus from local community input. Further, by incorporating and innovate approach to research dissemination (by working with an engaged graphic designer), they will include all community partners, policy makers, and (interested) research participants in a collaborative discussion around how to communicate the research findings in a manner that reflects the needs and interests of the local community. This new form of graphic design is integral to maintaining continued interest in the research and future policy recommendations.  By  engaging  the community at every stage of this research (through community partnerships, local research assistance,  and  collaborative  design  of  findings/policy  recommendations)  they  aim  to  create research that will further local and national discussions about ways to mitigate the negative impacts that resource development has on housing in a way that re-enforces  local control over housing, engages all members of the community, and provides lasting direction for future policy making.

Their research communication includes an innovative approach by working with a social justice and community-­‐engaged graphic designer, Una Lee (from And Also Too agency). Una Lee is a leader in her field who works directly with community members and research partners to develop the most accessible and user-­‐friendly materials for specific communities. By working with Una Lee, the team will be able to create policy documents (whether in the form of a report, a poster, a pamphlet) that will be created with and for our community partners. This specific type of collaboration between researchers, graphic designers and community partners has been proven to effectively make research accessible and available to impacted communities.

When the design portion is complete, they will make the findings available through a formal launch, including email updates to research partners, coordinated postings on partner and project websites, e-newsletters, press releases to local (CBC North) and national media.  They will also mail hardcopies of the report to community partners, policy makers and research stakeholders, as requested. In addition, they will keep all of our community partners, stakeholders, and (interested) research participants apprise of the research through quarterly updates through e-newsletters, emails, and website updates.

Academic Research communication plan includes: the publication of research results in three top-tired peer-reviewed journal publications (Housing Studies, Canadian Journal for Regional and Urban Research,  and  Arctic)  as  well  as  two  high  profile  research  conferences  the  International Association of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS) Meeting in June 2017 and Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG()Annual General Meeting in March/April 2018.

For more information contact:

Lisa Freeman
Department of Criminology
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Surrey, BC  V3W 2M8
Email: lisa.freeman@kpu.ca