The Nunavut Housing Corporation has secured $265 million in funding over the next nine years from the National Housing Strategy. “This will bring about 700 new housing units across the territory,” said Mike McPherson, vice-president and chief operating officer of NHC. He added the plan is to build 227 new public housing units from 2020 to 2022.
Over the past five years, the number of public housing units has been raised from 5,153 units in March 2015 to 5,582 units in 2019. This means 429 public housing units were constructed in Nunavut during this period. The construction cost for these housing units has been about $200 million.
On Aug. 31, after her three-week tour of housing units in the territory, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq had said many Nunavummuit are in need of housing and aren’t being heard.
“I don’t think that the bare minimum has ever been reached and for Nunavut in particular, housing, it’s a basic human right,” she had expressed.
The vice-president of NHC said, “Progress feels slow and we understand the frustration felt by many.”
However, in the meantime, the NHC is prioritizing the “most vulnerable applicants” who have the “greatest” need for housing, said McPherson.
He explained that various factors are considered before providing housing to applicants, not limited to “whether an applicant is a victim of spousal assault, is homeless or may become homeless unless they are assigned a housing unit.
“Their means to afford housing in the private market or to own their own home are also taken into consideration,” said McPherson.
He added the length of time someone has spent on the wait list is yet another factor.
“We know this may seem unfair to people who have waited years for public housing,” said McPherson.
“Our highest priority has to be ensuring our most vulnerable applicants are assigned housing.”
Nunavummiut who are not able to immediately secure housing are placed on a waiting list.
Data collected from July 2020 shows that the number of applicants vary according to the community. NHC states there were 178 applications on the wait list in Gjoa Haven, 109 in Taloyaok, 70 in Kugaaruk, 72 in Coral Harbour, 222 in Rankin Inlet, 279 in Arviat and 261 in Baker Lake.
“Some of the homes I have seen are absolutely horrific. There is no way that someone should be living in there,” said Qaqqaq on Aug. 31, referring to the aforementioned communities.
She had described the housing units as “mould boxes” in “horrendous” conditions.
On Sept. 16, Qaqqaq told Nunavut News, “Each community has a housing corporation and most communities struggle year after year to keep up with basic maintenance let alone massive mould and infrastructure issues.”
McPherson said the NHC takes concerns about mould in its public housing units “seriously.” For “large complex remediations, the NHC is working with engineering services and when necessary tendering work to private contractors.”
To date, NHC has remediated 147 units in 19 communities, said McPherson, adding “NHC continues to move forward with work on units containing mould.”
The NHC encourages public housing tenants to report mould to their local housing organization immediately.
“We know the housing crisis is an ongoing and heavy burden, meaning few choices, overcrowding and struggle, as the demand for housing exceeds what is available,” said McPherson.
“Financial support from the federal government to the NHC is critical for us to address the housing crisis.”
Qaqqaq told Nunavut News, “The Nunavut Housing Corporation is doing the best that it can with limited resources. The solution will not come from better management or proper administration, but rather from a greater degree of investment from the federal government. They have the money and need to be spending it to allow Nunavummiut organizations like the housing corporation to be able to thrive.”