The Issue: Housing, still
We Say: Nunavut paging PM Trudeau

There’s a time for talking, and a time for action.

We’ve long since passed the time for talk when it comes to the housing crisis in Canada’s North, especially in Nunavut’s communities.

These communities were built with the colonial promise of a better way of life, and have brought easily as much hardship as they were proposing to end – some would argue far more.

Many mould-ridden units, built in keeping with southern codes, are no longer suitable for human habitation.

MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq highlighted these and more deficiencies in her report on Nunavut’s housing crisis titled Sick of Waiting, which was released in March following her summer tour of eight Nunavut communities.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical need for immediate federal investment in housing in Nunavut. Hundreds of people are on waiting lists for new homes, physical distancing is almost impossible with multiple people sharing the same rooms, and mouldy conditions contribute to asthma and other respiratory conditions that make Covid-19 worse,” said Qaqqaq. “The federal government has never provided enough funding to address basic housing requirements. They must act to make sure Nunavummiut can be safe and healthy in their homes.”

It has been decades of having the same conversations on what to do about this problem – a predicament that only continues to grow as decisive action is further delayed. Funding announcements are made regularly by the federal government, but they are more often than not a rehashing of the same agreements.

A 2019 federal announcement promised “nearly $316 million in targeted funding to protect, renew, and expand social and community housing, and to repair and build affordable homes across the territory. (These) investments – combined with funding already available through a social housing agreement between Canada and Nunavut – will help preserve more than 1,600 community housing units across the territory.”

The same news release notes that “Nunavut needs over 3,000 units to meet its current housing demand, with over 4,900 individuals or about 2,500 families on waiting lists for public housing.”

It’s unclear if these numbers account for Nunavut’s swiftly growing young population.

Also worth mentioning is the 20 per cent increase in cost to build new units as of late 2020, which could drastically impact how many homes and repairs that pot of money can truthfully provide over its ten-year investment period.

The GN has committed to dealing with the mould issues plaguing public housing units. In October, Premier Joe Savikataaq announced that the Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC) aims to commit $5 million in new funding to combat the issue. Over the past three years, the NHC has allocated $20.3 million for mould remediation, he added.

The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, March 2017 states: “Unacceptable high levels of respiratory illnesses, infectious diseases and family violence can all be linked to poor housing conditions, as can the direct negative effects on children’s ability to learn and social relationships.”

We are absolutely mired in reports. We have plenty of Nunavummiut who are involved in skilled trades that could be part of the solution in repairing their communities. Those federal pots of money should be reinvested in keeping local economies healthy.

It’s time to build capacity while we’re building and repairing people’s quality of life.

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1 Comment

  1. Using this money to build new homes and fix existing homes should also focus on building local capacity. There are more and more skilled tradespeople in the communities every year but NHC continues to fly workers in from the south to do the work as it is cheaper than hiring local contractors (if the community is lucky enough to have a local contractor, most still don’t). They hire a couple unskilled labourers and push the work to be completed as fast as possible allowing the southerner to move on to the next community. There is no training program, there is no real long term benefit to the community other than the work being done. This cycle has repeats itself endlessly just like the housing crisis. No progress is ever really made. New ideas are needed. Local capacity needs to be increased to encourage the development of a housing market. Local contractors working with people who can afford to own and operate a home is part of the solution. Even if the NHC has a program where they pay half the cost of a new home they would still be ahead in the end. The unit only costs them half of what it would if built for public housing. The public housing unit would then be available to those who need it once the new homeowners move out. The costs of public housing never end. The up keep and maintenance costs begin the day the NHC takes over the unit. Money is lost on this unit for the entire time it is part of NHC’s inventory. Nunavut is growing up. NHC needs to as well.

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