Membertou

Since a very young age, Ryan Ginnish, a Membertou member dreamed of building his own home. He knew exactly what he wanted for him and his family – a house different from the rest. Some of the choices Ryan and his wife Jacquie made not only are practical; they look great too! For example, they chose Novac cedar shakes for their siding, a hard vinyl product that looks like cedar but will last a lifetime. They went with a metal roof which will hold 32 solar panels to provide energy for both the heating and cooling. While Ryan noted these items cost more up front, the family will save money and reduce their carbon footprint over the longer term.

When talking with Ryan, it is clear he knew what he wanted, beginning with a desirable location close to the school. Choosing their own plan with an open concept design, the Ginnishes wanted the tallest ceilings possible, settling for 9 feet. While grateful for the loan guarantee from Membertou and the Fund, Ryan knew it would not be enough for the home he wanted. While he knows they will never own the land, he said the value comes from knowing that this is his forever home – a home for his kids and potential grandkids.

Ryan has been the proud owner for the last 11 years of Thunderbird Commercial Insurance, a majority Mi’kmaq-owned insurance brokerage. Ryan’s inspiration and work ethic comes from his mother who worked full time and went to school while taking care of Ryan and his two brothers.

Ryan credits Jacquie with making the house look nice after spending countless hours researching, doing her homeowner and looking at other places. He says his favorite part of the house is the kitchen as they both like cooking and eating as a family. The open concept supports their ability to be together and communicate even if they are doing different activities in each room.

When asked, Ryan offered some tips for other potential homeowners: Firstly, you need to be prepared financially. Ryan noted you must prove you can afford to borrow and pay back the loan. Plus you need your downpayment and money for other costs saved. He suggested budgeting to spend more than you planned for; in their case, COVID-19 delayed the construction start and increased the costs. Secondly, Ryan stressed finding the right contractor is key, even if you must wait. Thirdly, he suggested not being rigid about a timeline and not getting frustrated. Sometimes things do not move as fast as you would like. There’s lots of follow-up needed. You need to be flexible and stay on it. Lastly, Ryan said to be prepared to make choices – about a hundred different things – including windows, fixtures, doorknobs and lots and lots of colours. In Ryan’s view it is important to get what you want.

Ryan said none of this would have been possible without his mentor and business partner, Malcolm Smith. ‘He played an integral role in my success.’ Ryan, Jacquie and their kids cannot wait to move out of his mother’s basement on the reserve and into their 3600 square foot ‘forever’ home.


The opportunity to customize the standard design and finishes of Fund-backed homes guaranteed by Membertou under their new Home Purchase Program has proven popular with members. Building on the program that the Wemindji Cree Nation in Quebec had developed, Membertou made it their own by developing a list of exterior and interior options a member could upgrade. Participating members first choose a standard home design, and then are given the opportunity to customize a variety of features. Upgrade options include exterior cladding, decking and shingles, as well as a host of interior changes including the heating/cooling system, appliances, flooring, kitchen and bathroom fixtures and cabinetry.

Aaron Stevens and his family of four are proud first-time homeowners. Aaron, an employee of the Public Works Department at Membertou had been on a crew working on sewer and water installation in Membertou’s newest subdivision when he became aware of the program. Living with family, and then in an apartment, he was not where he wanted to be permanently with his young family. Aaron wanted them to have a home of their own. Aaron chose from the largest of the standard home designs Membertou offered and enhanced it to fit the needs of the family. Favoring an open concept design, Aaron enlarged the living room, the master bedroom, and the rec room, and changed the kitchen, including opting for a gas stove. He really likes that the gas is also piped to his BBQ so he does not have to fill those “little tanks.” Aaron changed the upstairs bathroom to make it larger and more functional and chose waterproof plank flooring throughout the main rooms both for looks and its hardiness. This spring Aaron hopes to put down sod and build a fence where his kids and dog can play, off the bigger deck he chose. Aaron said he thinks it is “pretty cool” he got to choose all these features. He said many have asked him how he did it- his answer is he heard about the option and jumped at it. He has offered to tell anyone who asks about his experience.

“We would still be living in an apartment if the program didn’t come up,” said Aaron.

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