In a territory facing a desperate housing shortage, the Nunavut Housing Corporation is scaling back construction of new residences due to climbing costs of construction, Minister Margaret Nakashuk acknowledged in the legislative assembly on May 28.

A total of 31 homes previously planned in 2020-21 will no longer be built, along with a five-plex for staff residences in Pangnirtung, according to Nakashuk. The other affected communities are Iqaluit, Taloyoak and Rankin Inlet, although the latter was at least partly due to a lack of building lots, the housing minister said.

In Iqaluit, the bid to build four four-plexes was over the Government of Nunavut’s budget by $3.3 million.

The GN had previously announced plans to deliver 114 new residential and staff homes in 2021-22.

Responding to a query from Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq, who wanted to know why the tender for two new five-plexes scheduled for Taloyoak has been cancelled, Nakashuk acknowledged the reversal of plans.

“Across Canada the cost has gone up a lot and because the cost of lumber has increased exponentially, the company that was going to do the construction is no longer able to proceed with the work for this coming year,” the minister said. “What I can state is that none of these projects are being abandoned, just that they will not go ahead in this construction season,”

The Government of Nunavut estimates that it’s paying 30 per cent more for lumber than a year ago. The costs of steel, drywall and insulation have also escalated.

On June 1, as MLAs revisited the topic to express their concern, Nakashuk noted that the average price per new home has climbed to $908,000, up from $641,000 in 2019-20.

Iqaluit Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone again encouraged the GN to look at using structurally insulated panels or other alternative approaches to home construction, as opposed to lumber or “stick built,” which he described as producing a “tremendous amount of waste; is lengthy; produces inefficient units; is extremely costly, at almost $1 million a unit now; and most importantly, is prone to mould.”

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