Sheppard, Lola and Mason White (2017) Government housing: Northwest Territories and Nunavut, In Many Norths: Spatial Practice in a Polar Territory, edited by Lola Sheppard and Mason White, Actar Publishers, pp.150-157

Keywords: architecture and designcrowdinghistory of housing policyspatial activity patternssustainability

This chapter gives an overview of housing programs in the Canadian North, initiated by the federal government in the 1950’s. It further describes and illustrates the housing types utilized from the 1950’s until 2010, such as the Matchbox House, Rigid-Frame House, Weber Homes, and Nunavut Housing Corporation types.

Sheppard and White outline the steps taken by the federal government in establishing centralized, permanent settlements in the Northwest Territories under the 1958 Northern Vision initiative (p. 150). Motivated by the need to provide social services and assert sovereignty, the government funded substandard, southern-style housing types that were largely unaffordable to Inuit communities (p. 150). Homes did not meet the climatic or cultural needs of the Arctic, being poorly insulated and restricting extended family gatherings (p.150). The authors assert that though there is more local, regional and territorial control over programs and construction, overcrowding remains a key social concern (p. 150).

The Matchbox Houses were prefabricated, wood paneled, single-roomed dwellings provided under the Eskimo Housing Loan Program from 1959-1965 (p. 152). Another early government housing type was the Rigid-Frame House, a prefabricated, single-room unit using stressed-skin plywood (p. 152). Houses became larger in the 1970’s under the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, using a southern design from Weber Homes and ranged from 896-1,600sq ft (p. 154). The authors describe how Inuit would repurpose the homes to meet their cultural and social needs as there had been no consultation on design with Northern communities. For instance, Inuit might use the bathroom for food preparation and the kitchen for snowmobile maintenance (p. 154).

Housing types from the 1980’s-2010 include single-family 3 or 4-bedroom homes and duplexes, fourplexes and five-plexes (p. 157). The 2010 designs use more technologically advanced materials such as composite panels and damage-resistant gypsum wallboard (p. 157).