Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mike Holmes has a fix for First Nations Housing

Mike Holmes is in the news again, supposedly with a "fix" for the housing "crisis" on reserves.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/12/02/f-first-nations-housing.html
"Stop Building Junk on reserves" says the headline.

Ya huh. In a fashion only Mike Holmes seems to be able to get away with, no one steps out to call him on his pollyannaish way of thinking.  Back in July there was an announcement that he was going to start the big fix and they'd have an announcement in a month as to where he's going to begin this big transformation. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2010/07/21/man-holmes-afn-agreement.html I'm waiting to hear where they're going to start this revolution in building AND training.

Mike figures the quality of a wood framed house is the issue with bad housing. I'll just take the whole argument OFF reserve, so as not to make the issue a racist filled rant... or at least not provide the opportunity to call it that, even if it isn't. It seems we can't say things as they are when "reserve" is a part of the conversation.

Three homes are on my block, all evidently built by the same builder, the same plan, same build date. All are about a hundred years old now. One is beautiful on the exterior, one is ok, one is... well it doesn't look so good. That house needs a Mike Holmes makeover. What happened? A reasonable person would likely place the blame squarely on the owners of the homes, not the original builder or the specifications. I mean given Mike's belief that everything built on a reserve has been crap one would have to believe that all the houses on the reserve would be crap, but they're not. Like the three houses on my block, it's about the people who live in the homes, not the structure.

I've seen the specification for homes built on reserves, and it's no wonder they are so costly to erect. They are full of details that, at that time, far exceeded the sort of things we'd put into homes for sale here in the big city. Ventilation systems, crawlspace ventilation... specifications that CMHC came up with and builders were supposed to install. I didn't bid on any of these homes, but I did see that they tried to include everything possible to make these good quality, long lasting houses.

Neither CMHC, nor the builder can be there to ensure people utilize the ventilation systems. Electric baseboard heat does nothing to move air, and as such, mould will grow in the corners on the drywall and any wood. Furniture placed right against the corner of a wall will restrict air flow, and when you find the mould, what do you do? WASH IT OFF! If I lived in a house and knew mould was growing I'd mix bleach and water and kill that stuff, because breathing it isn't good for me, or my kids.

Did that sound like "personal responsibility"? I'm sorry if that sort of thinking is "out of bounds".


Mike has a nice gig. He's good, I'll be the first to admit it, but in all the shows I've watched, there are some things that never come up. Budget... payment... clients... all the REAL problems for a renovator/builder. I can do amazing things with unlimited amounts of cash, but I work in the "real" world, not in "Mike's world". I've opened up walls and wanted to "make it right", but couldn't because I don't work for free, and the client didn't have the cash to pay. How great it would be to come in as the hero, riding a fine Arab Charger, rescuing people from bad renovations at no cost to them. Hugs all around!
I don't get to inspect a home for a client with a hammer and look behind the drywall. I can speculate and tell the purchaser I'm speculating, but I can't start taking apart light switches or checking the framing details of the second floor under the ceiling. I can't be in there counting how many lights/plugs are on each circuit, or see if squirrels have chewed the wires in the attic.

Mike has carved out a position as being a "voice" in the renovation/building industry, but it's been earned in a vacuum. Mike's renos are great, but I don't get too many clients who don't tell me what their limit is in spending money, so spray foam, replacing the knob and tube on the second floor, and hammering out the basement because we wanted to do a proper job installing the kitchen sink drain just isn't in our time, or dollar budget.

Given that Mike has earned his reputation in a vacuum, I'm not sure he gets to speak to things like "how to fix the on reserve housing crisis" until he's had to deal with those realities. I really don't think his idea of using containers for housing has any more merit than when I suggested that as a solution to the homelessness issue a decade ago, and I was told that living in a shipping container isn't a "dignified" solution (as if being homeless is dignified).


Mike needs to enter into a deal with a band, as a guy who doesn't have access to the media. He needs to entertain the Chief coming to his home to ask for some money so he can go to Cub Regent. He needs to get a cheque for his work made out in his name, and the bands, and meet with the Chief again to pass on his cut so he signs it. When the buildings are done, he needs to come to the realization that the bands refusal to pay the balance comes with no recourse to him. He can't place a lien, he can't take his product back... he's screwed. Mike needs to come to the worksite after delivering lumber up the winter road, and ask, "Where did the lift of 14' 2x4's go?" ,only to learn that they were used as fire wood. "Where are the floor tiles"? The kids threw them into the bush like frisbees. "Where's the contact cement"? On a rag stupid.

The problems with on reserve housing have less to do with the houses than Mike thinks.


When the article says, "Renovator and Holmes on Homes host offers easy fixes for First Nations housing crisis", know that there are NO easy fixes to the housing issues on reserves, and Mike is full of a lot of good info, but on this issue, he's also full of a lot of other stuff too.

1 comment:

  1. shipping container housing is probably the best idea. Have a bunch built elsewhere and paid for, then put them on a train to the reserve, and voila. Hell I'd live in one.

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