April 4, 2022

Are you applying to the Northern Access Round of the Housing Supply Challenge? Five things you need to know

Wide-shot of Yellowknife Bay frozen over during the winter.

By Evergreen

Key takeaways from the Northern Access Round Launch

In February 2022,  Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) launched the third round of the Housing Supply ChallengeNorthern Access Round: Supply Chain Solutions for Northern and Remote Housing. With up to $80M in funding available, the Northern Access Round encourages everyone from local residents to non-profit and for-profit organizations to propose solutions that improve the efficiency of the supply chain, infrastructure, and/or transportation in northern and remote regions to make building and maintaining housing more affordable. 

CMHC, joined by Innovation 7, who is facilitating the Northern Ideas Development Program (NIDP), and Evergreen, who is running the Housing Supply Challenge Support Program, shared information and tips for potential applicants. 

If you’re thinking of applying, here are five things you need to know.  

For more information on the Round and how to apply, watch the full Northern Access Round Launch event or attend one of the Housing Supply Challenge Support Program’s upcoming events available to potential applicants.  

1. Northern and remote communities face many supply chain issues that impact housing

If you want to build in northern and remote communities, you must start planning months – if not years – in advance. It takes months to get materials shipped in, and if there’s a mistake in the shipment, you could end up waiting another year for the right item.  

If materials are driven in by ice road, they can only be delivered during a window which has been increasingly shortened by climate change. If they’re flown in, planes are small and have limited places to land: many can’t use the short gravel airstrips in fly-in communities. The extreme weather makes the building season short, so when it’s a good time to build, materials may not be available, and when supplies are on hand, it may be impossible to do the work. These challenges can result in exorbitant costs – and lower quality housing.  

For more information on the unique barriers faced by residents in northern and remote regions follow these links:  

No Vacancy: what fixing supply chain issues will mean for Northern Housing  

Residents in northern and remote regions face unique housing barriers and costs  

2. Solutions are needed for every point on the supply chain

“Whether it’s design and planning, procurement, transport, logistics, receiving or storage, we want ideas for how these things can be solved in northern communities,” says Brigit Knecht, Senior Manager of Innovation at CMHC. “We need upstream solutions with downstream impact that reduce cost, time and risk and improve building, operating and maintaining housing supply.”  

Your idea can be small and community-driven idea or large-scale and span multiple regions. It could be around an alternative form of transport, a new logistics technology, an innovative airstrip option, or an approach to manufacturing supplies locally. The sky’s the limit: the challenge is about generating as many good, viable ideas as possible. 

3. Northern and remote involvement is vital

Supply chain problems can only be solved by working together: collaboration is a key element of the Housing Supply Challenge. Applicants from regions outside of  northern nor remote are encouraged to join forces with local applicants, with northern and remote organizations leading the projects. Joining forces with those in northern and remote regions offers a view into the unique contexts, implications and perspectives that will inform your solution. If you aren’t connected to a partner in the North, just ask: our support programs are designed to foster those connections.  

Also remember: the primary beneficiaries of your solution must be in a northern or remote region, and your idea must ultimately lead to housing that is high quality, climate relevant and culturally appropriate. 

4. There is support available to applicants

CMHC wants applicants to succeed. If you need help to submit a successful application, there are partner organizations to support and enable ideas from a cross-section of applicants, especially those from northern and remote regions.  

“It’s about removing as many barriers to participation as possible, bolstering northern-led solutions and ensuring great ideas aren’t missed just because someone didn’t have enough staff to apply,” says Knecht. 

  • The Housing Supply Challenge Support Program helps applicants develop and improve their submissions. They offer guidance, mentorship and resources for those who have a fleshed-out solution and the capacity to apply on their own.  
  • The Northern Ideas Development Program, run by Indigenous-owned consultancy Innovation 7, helps northern and remote participants who have a solution or a problem they want to explore, but need support to develop their submission. NIDP will help them expand their ideas, optimize applications, build proposal development skills and connect applicants with the right partners.  

“NIDP reps are here to talk to you about your problems, ideas, concepts and solutions,” says Dale Booth, President of Innovation 7. “We’ll help you work through that, make sure nothing falls through the cracks, and ensure you have the support necessary to submit a proper application.”  

5. It’s okay to think big 

Don’t limit yourself to a small-scale solution if you have big ideas. “One thing we saw in previous rounds is people coming to us with ideas and making them small in the hopes of getting some funding,” says Knecht. There is funding available, so don’t hesitate to come to us with your big ideas!”  

Have questions? Consult the Northern Round FAQ, or contact Evergreen. There were a number of applicant questions answered during the launch event– you may find the answer you need in the Northern Access Round Launch presentation and video 

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