Houses are seen Saturday, April 25, 2015 in Iqaluit, Nunavut. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Image credit: Houses in Iqaluit, Nunavut. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Beyond Sustainability: The Power of Indigenous Healthy Energy Homes

A new approach to Indigenous housing can address health and climate risks.

A new approach to housing in Indigenous communities could improve health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples. It could unlock multiple benefits including: reduced healthcare costs, emissions reductions and savings for households. 

Challenges with the housing landscape in Indigenous communities

Current approaches to Indigenous housing are rooted in a colonial legacy. This has resulted in unhealthy housing conditions such as poor ventilation, overcrowding, and homes that are unsuitable for their location or environment. 

For decades, Indigenous Peoples have raised concerns that inadequate and unsafe housing in communities aggravates or causes respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health illnesses. Climate change impacts such as heat waves worsen both unsafe housing conditions and related health challenges. 

Figure 2: The links between Indigenous community housing and health

This figure shows the links between Indigenous community housing and health. It shows the challenges, implications and consequences of Indigenous homes in the current housing market.

While several factors play a role, governance and accountability challenges are the core issues of these health and housing challenges. They undermine relevant and sufficient investment in Indigenous community housing.

A new approach to Indigenous housing

The housing situation in Indigenous communities has been a long-standing problem. It will continue unless all orders of government not only provide further investments of time and money but, most importantly, take a different and more coordinated, holistic approach to address this issue. The multiple benefits of Healthy Energy Homes make them a worthwhile and smart investment, which could help to drive down healthcare costs while supporting the well-being and health of future generations.

The Healthy Energy Homes project is a partnership between the Canadian Climate Institute’s Indigenous Research stream and Indigenous Clean Energy. It shows how a new approach to housing could address many of these challenges. It could unlock multiple benefits if housing strategies and funding decisions take a holistic view of housing issues and are developed in partnership with Indigenous communities.

The first scoping paper in this project, Beyond Sustainability: The Power of Healthy Energy Homes, sets the foundation for the broader series. It provides important context to both the challenges and innovative solutions linked to housing in Indigenous communities. 

The second report, planned for spring 2025, will focus on the policy changes and recommendations that could support building more Healthy Energy Homes in Indigenous communities.