March, 2021 – A year after Cenovus announced its Indigenous Housing Initiative, committing an initial $50 million over five years to help address the housing shortage in six Indigenous communities near our operations in northern Alberta, several families in Cold Lake, Beaver Lake and Heart Lake began moving into new homes.
The homecomings mark a year of hard work. Since launching the Initiative, the communities have worked closely with Cenovus to develop funding agreements, prepare housing plans and advance procurement and construction of homes. Twelve homes were built and readied for move-in during 2020 and early 2021, with 38 more scheduled for completion by the end of this year.
As part of the Indigenous Housing Initiative, Cenovus has also launched a 24-week construction and trades readiness program in partnership with Portage College. Launched in March of this year, the program will teach home construction and maintenance skills to several members of the participating communities. Portage College developed the curriculum to ensure the program can be delivered virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cenovus coordinated with the college to ensure every student has proper computer equipment and connectivity to the internet.
“We believe that the prosperity of our company is tied to the prosperity of the communities where we operate,” says Rhona DelFrari, Chief Sustainability Officer & Senior Vice-President, Stakeholder Engagement. “No one can focus on completing their education or reaching their economic potential without having a proper roof over their head. Our housing initiative is one way for us to play a more direct role in helping to improve the quality of life for people living in these communities and our hope is that we’ll inspire other companies, governments and organizations to join us in finding creative solutions to address the Indigenous housing crisis.”
At the end of March 2021, the project had achieved the following milestones:
- Construction and delivery of houses: Many of the communities will be receiving prefabricated houses, from their chosen builders, which they helped construct. The homes are built offsite and then delivered, with all on-site completion work conducted by the communities. Three communities have received all of their homes built in 2020 and are now in the planning and construction phases for their next round of homes. The other three communities will begin procurement and construction of some of their homes after being delayed in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and needing to procure land.
- Completion of home inspections: As part of the initiative, every house is inspected to ensure compliance with federal and provincial safety codes.
- Furniture and household items: Some families will be outfitting their homes with surplus furniture, artwork and kitchen supplies from Cenovus workspaces.
- Procurement of appliances: Cenovus’s Supply Chain Management team has been leveraging vendor relationships to procure bulk discounts on appliances. These savings will amount to around $500,000 over the five-year program – enough to build two additional houses.