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Cost of building houses goes up 20 per cent; GN devotes $5 million in new funding to address mould

The average cost for the Government of Nunavut to have a new house built in 2019-2020 rose to $641,831, a 20 per cent increase from $533,689 a year earlier, acting Housing Minister Joe Savikataaq revealed in the legislative assembly on Wednesday.

In 2017-18, it only cost $481,000 to construct a new home, on average.

The cost to construct an average public housing unit has climbed more than $100,000 over the past year due to inflation and design changes, according to Nunavut Housing Corporation president Terry Audla.
photo courtesy Nunavut Housing Corporation

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone said the jump of more than $100,000 per housing unit over the past year alone is “a bit shocking,” and he asked for the reasons behind it.

Nunavut Housing Corporation president Terry Audla attributed the higher costs to inflation, such as the rising prices of materials and shipping. He also said the housing corporation’s changes in design, such as roofing that’s less prone to mould build up, also accounts for greater expenses.

In regards to mould, Savikataaq announced that the housing corporation will commit $5 million in new funding to combat the prevalence of mould in public housing units. Over the past three years, the NHC has allocated $20.3 million for mould remediation, he added.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main commended the housing corporation for the additional funding to eliminate mould. He noted that the NHC had stated in the past that approximately 20 per cent of its housing stock had been assessed for mould. He asked how it will be determined where the funding will be targetted this fiscal year.

Savikataaq replied, “I would think that it would be spent in the ones that have the most need in terms of mould remediation.”

The assessment of the NHC’s units is ongoing, the acting minister acknowledged. Depending on the extent of the problem, housing staff will deal with it, said Savikataaq. In extreme cases, specialists have to be brought in to remove it.

Main stated that the GN’s five-year plan for mould remediation works out to about 44 units per year. He asked which communities will be the sites for that work this year, considering that the NHC’s assessment isn’t yet complete.

Audla responded, “What we will do is we will be reaching out to the local housing organizations and work with them as well as with the contractor to ensure that those communities that have the most instances are going to be given the priority that they need to be given, and to ensure that we address those that have potentially a lot more instances of it. That will be in close collaboration with the local housing organizations.”

Main deduced, “The answer is at this point the housing corporation doesn’t know which communities will be seeing remediation work under this funding.”