The Nunavut Housing Corporation expects to build 52 new public housing units over the next year, and the majority of them will be in Iqaluit and Clyde River.
There are 22 units designated for the territorial capital, 15 for Clyde River, 10 for Taloyoak and five for Kinngait.
However, 31 of those residences are carried over from last year.
There are also 10 new staff housing units planned for 2022-‘23.
The cost per new housing unit is approximately $900,000 to $1.1 million, according to Lorne Kusugak, minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation, while speaking in the Legislative Assembly on March 10.
“The cost of building housing units is going up, therefore the number of units being built decreases,” Kusugak said, adding that the number of new builds for 2022-‘23 isn’t set in stone due to inflation possibly reducing the target. “It is a dire situation. We need more money for housing.”
Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes was flabbergasted by the skyrocketing expenses.
“It’s mind-boggling on how fast the construction costs have increased… I really, sincerely challenge you guys to find better ways of building,” he said. “I know we have to make sure that we’re building units that are going to last and we have to use good materials and good construction methods, but as far as I’m concerned right now, I don’t give a hoot whether we win a design award or some fancy award. I want to see energy-efficient units built as cheaply as possible so that we can house as many people every year as possible.”
Kusugak agreed that cheaper alternatives to building houses must be identified, but there are many unanswered questions.
“Do we build them year by year, or do we go into longer-term housing agreements? How do we do this? Do we get in the housing business, we the government? There are other options out there and we will be looking at them and we will be taking a very hard look at them and taking a look at industry and see where we go with this. Does it mean we get into partnerships and with whom?” Kusugak asked rhetorically. “We are going to look for ways to build more houses in Nunavut… We’re going to explore ways to do this because we can’t just build 52 houses or 21 houses a year and expect that to be good enough. There are options out there and we will explore them.”
The housing corporation’s total capital budget for 2022-‘23 is $81.3 million, $51.5 million of which comes from the Government of Nunavut while the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation contributed $29.8 million.
Maintenance and improvement programs will be allotted $11.8 million for the upcoming fiscal year, $7 million will go toward mould clean-up, $4.5 million for home ownership programs, $4 million for repairs to fire damage and $1.35 million for vehicles for the NHC and local housing authorities.
Kusugak was asked whether the housing corp. has succeeded in forming partnerships with other entities, such as Inuit birthright organizations, to construct additional homes.
“There is no formal commitment of any kind at this time,” the minister replied, adding that efforts are being made to improve communications with various parties.
Damages to homes
Hickes inquired about home repair programs and annual inspections carried out by local housing authorities because some housing units are in “pathetic shape.”
“That type of damage doesn’t occur in one year,” he said.
“It is a sad reality,” Kusugak replied. “These public housing units are not cheap and even when you see some of them through the media and some of the houses you do enter are in very sad shape. That just does not happen overnight. A lot of it is inflicted by the homeowner… just the outright damage that is done to some of these units, willful damage.”
Sometimes the occupants have to pay for those damages, he added.
Hickes said, “I totally agree with the minister that willful damage is a plague on our housing situation.”
Kusugak also noted that some homes suffer rapid deterioration from being overcrowded. A two or three-bedroom house isn’t built for 10 or 12 people, he said. Having that many occupants in a household results in much higher use of floors, cupboards and other fixtures, so they wear out much faster, the minister explained.