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GN confronts staff housing crunch

With close to 500 priority positions to fill and approximately 60 vacant staff houses available, the Government of Nunavut is in “dire straits” when it comes to offering accommodations, its Human Resources minister has admitted.
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The Government of Nunavut is struggling to provide staff housing with close to 500 priority vacancies to fill in various communities — Arctic Bay is seen here — but only about 60 staff residences available. Timkal/Wikimedia Commons photo ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥ ᒐᕙᒪᒃᑯᑦ ᐊᒃᓱᕈᖅᐳᑦ ᑐᓂᓯᓂᕐᒥ ᐃᖅᑲᓇᐃᔭᖅᑎᓄᑦ ᐃᒡᓗᒃᓴᖏᓐᓂ ᖃᓂᒋᔭᖓᓂ 500–ᓄᑦ ᓯᕗᓪᓕᔾᔭᐅᓯᒪᔪᓄᑦ ᐃᓄᖃᙱᓐᓂᐅᔪᓂ ᐃᓐᓄᒋᐊᓕᖕᓂ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ 60–ᐸᓗᖕᓂ ᐃᖅᑲᓇᐃᔭᖅᑎᓄᑦ ᐃᒡᓗᒋᔭᐅᔪᓂ ᐊᑐᐃᓐᓇᐅᔪᓂ.

With close to 500 priority positions to fill and approximately 60 vacant staff houses available, the Government of Nunavut is in “dire straits” when it comes to offering accommodations, its Human Resources minister has admitted.

The union representing teachers is also concerned about the lack of staff houses.

“We certainly feel that teacher recruitment and retention is an issue for our schools in Nunavut. When you consider that many of our members are either not offered or forced to share housing this certainly creates an issue in terms of recruitment,” said Justin Matchett, president Nunavut Teachers’ Association. “The lack of housing offered by the GN certainly limits the pool of potential employees for our schools. Our Inuit members are sometimes not offered housing with a teaching position and are assumed to have housing already, and our teachers relocating from southern Canada are usually limited to what types of positions they can apply for and where, based on what housing is offered. If shared housing is the only option it would be extremely difficult for a family to relocate and accept a position in Nunavut.”

Matchett added that some teachers have left the territory because the only housing option was shared accommodations, which causes stress in some situations.

Human Resources Minister David Akeeagok addressed the staff housing shortage during the last sitting of the legislative assembly.

“As everybody appreciates, there is a very high vacancy rate within all of our departments. In some cases, some of the requests are high in terms of wanting to put it out (to) competition, whether it is with staff housing or without. With all of that combined, it has given the senior management an opportunity to say, “OK, how are we going to deal with this?” and working very closely with all departments in terms of trying to prioritize the number of vacancies. That’s what is happening,” Akeeagok said on May 27.

“COVID-19 does have some impacts on this, but I want to assure our public service that in terms of putting competitions back into our pool, it is forthcoming. With this, senior management needs to have a very strong look because we are in dire straits when it comes to staff housing.”

The minister commended the Nunavut Housing Corporation for issuing a tender to seek out any private accommodations that may be available to lease as staff housing. The housing corp. is also aiming to refurbish some existing staff residences.

Akeeagok also denied that there’s any problems with the government’s staff housing allocation policy.

“How do you manage it with the sheer volume of vacancies that the departments are asking to fill with staff housing, and it is time critical because we need to start hiring our teachers for this coming fall. We need to take all this into factor, but the policy itself or the program itself doesn’t require much change,” Akeeagok said in the legislative assembly on June 2.

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak said on June 8 that she doesn’t understand why GN employees paid close to $200,000 are still eligible for subsidized staff housing, a complaint previously stated by Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone.

Grant McMichael, assistant deputy minister of operations with the Department of Human Resources, said the GN’s staff housing stock is comprised of 1,729 units. Under the GN’s revised staff housing policy, deputy ministers can prioritize positions to meet departmental Inuit employment goals and operational requirements.

“Given the limited GN housing inventory, an all-departments meeting was held in March 2021 to strategically align the limited housing to critical positions that are required to service Nunavummiut in each community,” McMichael stated.

He added that the Department of Human Resources, which now chairs the staff housing allocation committee, works in partnership with Nunavut Housing Corporation to plan future GN staff housing build locations.

Although the GN had 1,576 vacant positions as of the end of March, approximately 500 of them are categorized as a priority to fill.