[Joseph Kunkel:] So hello again and welcome back to our webinar series for the Indigenous Housing Innovation Initiative. I'm Joseph Kunkel, Design Director at MASS Design Group and leading a portfolio of work called Sustainable Native Communities. I'm a northern Cheyenne tribal member and a designer working here, with our tribal communities, in the States and excited again for this Webinar and our guest this time around, Sean Willy. Sean, thank you for being with us today, and I wanted you to introduce yourself. [Sean Willy:] Thanks Joseph. Glad to be here. I'm a member of the Métis in the Northwest Territories. I have worked in the resource industry for over 20 years now. I'm President and CEO of Des Nedhe Development. It's 100% owned Indigenous corporation, owned by English River First Nation, northern Saskatchewan. I've been here about two years and happy to be a member of the Indigenous housing innovation team. [Joseph Kunkel:] Excellent, excellent. And why don’t you… Let's maybe start with being part of the steering committee and why you kind of chose to be part of that steering committee. [Sean Willy:] Well, just growing up, throughout northern Canada. You just experience Indigenous communities, Métis, Inuit, First Nations communities. Looking at the housing challenge and wanting to be a part of a team that could innovate, that challenge really resonated with me because I think better housing leads to healthier, safer, stronger families. More vibrant communities. It allows for education and again, health and well-being, because our communities are facing the challenge, right? And I think it's really impacted the culture of the people. And people look at our communities as poverty and that's the culture and where I see in many who are from the community a vibrant Indigenous culture. But I think it all starts with a safe, healthy, warm place to rest. And secondary to that I see housing as an opportunity for economic developments. And I think economic development supports the path, the self-determination. Because if you don't create your own economic development opportunities and create your own source revenue, you have to depend on others and that does not lead to self-determination. [Joseph Kunkel:] Right. Right. And that's exactly why we're talking today is to talk a little bit about economic development, sustainable financing methods and ways to really think about how, as Indigenous peoples, we can start really thinking critically about sustainable futures from a kind of funding/financing standpoint. And, this conversation with you I think is really important as we think about this initiative in particular and how we're thinking about housing, housing development and so on. So maybe just to really kind of dive right into it and talk a little bit about project financing and procurement, and if you have some thoughts on why this is a core component, or a really important component of this initiative. [Sean Willy:] Well, I think you start with where we're coming from. I think if you look at our communities, the money that is created with Indigenous communities, you’re looking at a seepage of upwards of 90% of those dollars going outside of the communities. And I think looking at housing in a way that's sustainable, that can create an economic development benefit for the community, and help keep some of that money within the community will only help on the path to self determination. And so we started with this sustainable housing. So communities I think traditionally have got a bucket of money and gone out and provided that money to an outside vendor, most likely to try to get the biggest bang for their buck. They got the cheapest houses, because our communities are under strict budget requirements and so there's one draw on the money that's going outside. Now instead of that, how do we build our own houses? Can we create economic development corporations to build houses? Can we support other Indigenous communities who've already created those companies? I think we need to start keeping Indigenous money in Indigenous buckets. Second, what do you use in your housing? So, you know, especially in Canada, there's a plethora of communities that are in the boreal forest. You've got others in zones where you can use materials from your local, traditional territory that help in your housing? You know, even up to blocking, the woods. Some communities that are owners in lumber mills and old lumberyards. What can you bring to the table as far as labour or supplies within community stores? And I think that's really taking it down to the grass roots and getting people involved in the housing. Too many times I've seen that, ready to move houses – RTMs – come in and they're just plucked on, it doesn't employ anybody, they’re not made in the community. No sense of pride, no sense of ownership. So that's, I think, where we need to start with economic development is in that supply chain. Where is each community, if they're not focusing on local, can they support another Indigenous community? And we have to put the jealousy aside and start supporting each other in this goal to be more sustainable in our housing. When I look at the next step, and you mentioned it, that there is the financing. And I know many communities are on a path of providing ownership opportunities to community members. I think that's where it starts with individuals getting involved in their own purchase of their own house or even starting with renting their own house. I think that's a conversation we need to have and we need to understand that it's not all going to happen at once. And I think you've seen communities across the country who have gone down this path with allowing members to purchase a house. Let's use on-reserve for example. It starts to create a wave and people, and there's just a sense of ownership from most families who own those houses. Yes, it does create some initial jealousy, but that goes away over time and creates a wave of additional people wanting to have that option of buying their own house and owning it and making it their own over time and creating wealth for your family so you can pass it down. But I think when you talk about innovative financing it has to start with individuals. Again, I caution that. I've run into many communities, this is, “well not everyone's going to be able to do that,” but it doesn't matter what culture and not everyone can do it. I think we have to get over that some are going to want to buy, some are going to want to rent and some are going to want to remain in the current system. [Joseph Kunkel:] Right. [Sean Willy:] Secondary, there's buckets of money out there right now, through lending agencies, CMHC on mortgages. Even with communities. I think communities should be well served at how they could support long-term mortgages of band members. Because I do think that the positives outweigh the negatives on those types of models. [Joseph Kunkel:] Yeah, I think that's exciting. And you touched a little bit on innovative financing as it relates to sustainable development or supporting sustainable development for kind of long-term investment, right? This idea of making sure that we're building and we're thinking about building, that we're supporting our culture, our communities for the long term. Is there a project that comes to mind or is there a practice or advice that you might suggest to participants or potential people pulling together an application for this initiative? [Sean Willy:] I would look to partner with other communities. I think too often we operate in silos and again, there is a bit of jealousy or competitiveness amongst our communities. But I would like to see applications that are multi-community, across nations. Right? So in the First Nation world, First Nations and Métis partner together, or if Cree and Dene or Saulteaux partner together with Anishinaabe. I think that would add value for my thing because I think that is again nations working together. I think what else would add value, how are you going to use a local supply chain, right? And multiply the money. So, if you're getting financing from different buckets to build a house, how do you make sure you, I use the word multiplier, so to add value. So are there carpenters, plumbers within the community that you can provide some of that money to? Who then will go out and hire additional people and put more funding within that bucket? Right? Too often we get these dollars from financing institutions to build houses and that money just seeps out words. So I'm going to be looking for innovative ways that when you're building the house. What's your local supply chain looking like? What's your Indigenous supply chain looking like? And then thirdly, the products we use in there, Joseph. So as I mentioned, is there going to be local content about different sustainable products the community’s using? Does an Indigenous entity own certain things that would be value added to this housing project, that could be part of those supply chain opportunities? [Joseph Kunkel:] Yeah. And as you're kind of thinking about those projects, supply chains and financing, is there anything really about the procurement process that could elevate or influence or amplify the ability for a project to have further financial impact within the community? [Sean Willy:] Well, I just think the procurement has to support Indigenous suppliers. We have to support those suppliers who are going to employ and train Indigenous people. I think too often, if you look at the current Canadian federal procurement, it's really a race to the bottom and the cheapest bid usually wins out. I think we have to add what's the best for society, what's the best for the Canadian taxpayer. And that’s employment of Indigenous people. That is a great way, really a great way to engage a segment of the population that has been engaged and we can train and add skills to these communities. The benefits are for their kids because if the kids don't see mom and dad going to work then their kids are more likely to want to follow suit. So I would add those things in our procurement. I want to see those as part of the applications. How are you engaging the local Indigenous population from a workforce strategy perspective? [Joseph Kunkel:] Excellent, it’s exciting to think about this initiative as economic development and not just kind of providing housing. I think as this conversation develops, this idea around amplifying our ability to leverage our economies locally and think about it locally, think about it from a sustainable standpoint, and not just environmentally sustainable, financially and fiscally sustainable, and how we're building our economies locally as Indigenous peoples. I think the key takeaway is that this is not just about building, building for building’s sake or building to provide a shelter. It's really long-term sustainability. And I am excited when I hear you talk about really pushing the bounds of what that might look like within these Indigenous communities and through this initiative itself. [Sean Willy:] Well, yeah, and you know, it's not “new.” It's reconnecting what was going on in the past with a bit more modern techniques. Right? But this is the way our communities operated a couple hundred years ago, before contact. So I think we can get back to this point and even take it to the next level and then, you know, start incorporating – some communities on an urban setting I think you'll see more of an inclusion of technology as well. But again, if we can add value and keep those dollars within our communities, that just adds a level of sustainability that we shouldn't be afraid of. [Joseph Kunkel:] No, that's great to hear. And I think some of the key takeaways from this discussion around sustainability revolving and keeping those dollars within the community. The idea around hiring locally, elevating this past an actual development project is quite exciting. As we wrap up our session here are there any last thoughts? If applicants are pulling together the “perfect project,” what would you like to be seeing in a potential application? [Sean Willy:] A healthy, happy, well-designed home. I think that's where we have to start, with the cookie cutter approach on houses. But again, I reiterate, I'm a champion of local economic development. I want sustainable, I want the smart house that's properly insulated, that's properly built, that has the input of the community, what their needs are. But on the same side of that is how do you engage the local workforce, the local suppliers, to make sure that those funding streams stay in the communities. So it's really all encompassing. It's got to be well thought-out. It can't be just one pillar. You've got to fit in. You’ve got to touch all five pillars. It has to be really well thought out and it has to be planned with other communities because I think we need to have a nation-nation dialogue and housing. [Joseph Kunkel:] And that's innovation that's pulling on all those levers. It's pulling on finance. It's pulling on sustainability, thinking critically about design culture, community in place. And I think that those are themes that we've been hearing in this webinar series and I think all the steering committee's members that have been participating have really been thinking critically about how we're kind of working collaboratively and collectively and coming together to hopefully try and solve these issues around Indigenous housing. For me that's really exciting to hear how everyone's kind of defining that, and really thinking critically about development, about housing, about funding, about financing. [Sean Willy:] Perfect. [Joseph Kunkel:] Thank you for taking the time and getting us some of your thoughts and your visions for this initiative, and I really appreciate you participating. And for those that are listening, I look forward to our last session on this webinar series and look forward to seeing what prospers from this. So thank you all and we'll talk soon. Thanks.