Council unanimously approved selling four lots in Conklin to support an Indigenous housing initiative funded by Cenovus Energy.
The land was sold for a nominal fee to the Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee (CRDAC) at Tuesday’s meeting. It will be part of a $50-million housing project in northeastern Alberta.
The company hopes to build 200 new homes in six Indigenous communities during the next five years. In Wood Buffalo, homes will be built in Janvier, the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation and Conklin.
Cenovus will also sponsor training programs so residents can participate in the construction of the homes.
In July, council approved selling five lots in Janvier to the Métis Nation of Alberta Local Council 218 of Chard for the same initiative.
“We have been given an opportunity to significantly overturn the situation through the program offered by Cenovus,” said Valerie Quintal, a member of the CRDAC board of directors. “At the same time, the RMWB owns several lots in the community that we need to make this dream become a reality.”
The sale of the land was previously approved by council on Oct. 4, 2016.
However, the land was not purchased at the time because of project postponements following the 2016 wildfires and organizational changes. The municipality’s net Loss for the four properties was $659,861.
Councillor Jane Stroud—who represents Wood Buffalo’s southern hamlets—accused the province of historically prioritizing housing programs in Fort McMurray over rural communities.
“With the funding being provided by Cenovus to build some homes in the hamlet of Conklin it would definitely help the homeless and overcrowding in the community,” she said.
When the project was announced, the CRDAC estimated at least one-third of Conklin lived in unstable housing.
A January 2019 study from the Alberta Rural Development Network found 92 people in Conklin living in unstable housing, including an infant.
The 2018 municipal census puts Conklin’s population at 229.
“When we have these initiatives that come forward saying that they want to build housing we think that it’s a great move and we’re excited about it,” said Mayor Don Scott in a Wednesday interview.
“It just shows you that there is still strength in this region,” he said. “We have billion-dollar industry in the backyard and this is one of the benefits of that, we end up doing initiatives like this with housing.”
– With files from Vincent McDermott, originally published in Fort McMurray Today.