“It just feels like we’re being ignored. It’s not a very good feeling at all,” said Taloyoak Mayor Chuck Pizzo-Lyall. “It’s nothing but disappointment.”
Pizzo-Lyall was reacting to news that the Nunavut Housing Corporation is postponing the construction of two five-plexes in his community due to rapidly rising costs.
There have been no public housing units built for Taloyoak’s 1,100 residents in almost four years, the mayor said.
He wrote a letter that was tabled in the legislative assembly last October, clearly stating the desperate need for more homes in the hamlet. It wasn’t enough to get anything done.
“I’m starting to run out of stuff to say to our community members of why that’s happening,” he said of the delays.
There were more than one hundred applicants on the waiting list for a home last time he checked. He knows of a three-bedroom home in Taloyoak where 18 people are living.
With so few housing units available and no homeless shelter, the mayor said there are individuals who are resorting to crime to ensure themselves of a safe and warm place to stay: jail cells.
“They just get into mischief just to have a roof over their head,” he said. “It’s not something I like to think about, but that’s what it’s coming down to now.”
As difficult as things have been in Taloyoak, Pizzo-Lyall is aware that Nunavut’s housing crisis is extensive. He has a friend whose family spent the winter in Iqaluit living in a tent because they had nowhere else to go.
“It’s awful,” he said.
He added that he hopes the territorial government will overhaul its home ownership program. He said he tried twice to fulfill the requirements but it’s a complicated process and he was unable to complete it.
“Even just getting a piece of land is ridiculous,” he said.
In the legislative assembly, Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq spent day after day during the first week of June trying to get commitments from Housing Minister Margaret Nakashuk.
“We are still in shock today in my community of Taloyoak since the minister announced last week that the Nunavut Housing Corporation’s tender for the community’s new five-plex units is cancelled,” Qirngnuq said on June 1. “As the minister is very much aware, Taloyoak is one of the communities with the greatest need for more units. Can the minister clearly explain why the Nunavut Housing Corporation cannot issue a new tender this year for the project?”
On June 2, Nakashuk replied, “The housing units that were to be built in Taloyoak are not cancelled. They are on in planning stages but it won’t be able to move ahead for this year … We’re not hiding anything here. I could state here that the funds were just insufficient for the purchase of the building materials that have skyrocketed.”
On June 7, Qirngnuq turned his attention to Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik, asking her department to come to the aid of “those who have no homes to call their own.”
Sheutiapik responded, “Our department is always committed to working with my fellow ministers, our MLAs and especially the communities, through the Poverty Reduction Division, is exactly to do that, to reach out to each community to see potentially what spaces are available for immediate use.”