Mike Holmes, the most famous handyman in the land, has accepted a rather ambitious project: to improve the lives of people in First Nations communities. The 47-year-old host of HGTV’s Holmes on Homes recently joined forces with the Assembly of First Nations and will oversee an initiative aimed at building sustainable homes on reserves. “We’re going to make sure,” he says, “that all the products we use are mould-free, water-resistant, termite-resistant.”
To start, Holmes plans to select an Ontario community in the next month for the pilot project.
It will be modelled after Wind Walk, a “Holmes Community” with 450 eco-friendly and sustainable houses currently under development near Okotoks, Alta. Since one of the challenges facing First Nations communities is an understanding of proper building practices, Holmes says, a First Nation Centre For Excellence will also be created. There, members of the community will be taught eco-friendly building skills. And though his team will oversee the effort, Holmes wants to include as many locals as possible in the building process.
Many of the details still have to be hammered out. But Holmes, who partnered with actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation in 2008 to rebuild a home in New Orleans, destroyed by hurricane Katrina, for a woman raising her six grandchildren, says, “If it was 50 homes being built, our target date [for completion] would be one year.” The funding for the pilot, as well as future projects, will come entirely from the First Nations communities. “Certain bands and certain areas have been putting money aside for restructuring,” he says. The ultimate goal: to provide those in First Nations communities with the tools to rebuild. “I don’t mean a hammer, a level and a square,” he says. “I mean an education system so they can do it themselves.”