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Homeownership must be prioritized to retain young Nunavummiut professionals

It is common to hear politicians and educators in Nunavut preach about the importance of supporting and empowering the next generation of Nunavummiut leaders.

It is common to hear politicians and educators in Nunavut preach about the importance of supporting and empowering the next generation of Nunavummiut leaders.

Education is rightfully listed as one of the top priorities to achieving this goal.

However, young Inuit who are motivated to attend university with a view to returning home to make a difference are finding that putting down roots in their hometowns is simply not feasible due to a lack of housing in the territory.

This is an issue that Rankin Inlet’s Augatnaaq Eccles highlighted in a recent viral Facebook post which blasted the lack of opportunities for homeownership in the territory.

Like so many of her peers, Eccles is inspired to improve the quality of life for her fellow Inuit. Her dream is to finish university and return to Rankin Inlet to become a teacher.

But with so few housing options, she must either choose to live in a crowded home with family at the expense of her independence and mental health, or wait and hope that she gets on a waiting list for public housing. Neither of these options is suitable for young professionals who want to invest in their future and start a family of their own.

Eccles’ story is all too familiar and her post has rightfully garnered a lot of attention from other youths in the territory, who see themselves left out in the cold.

As it stands, more than half of Nunavummiut rely on social housing to keep a roof over their heads. While social housing will always play a significant role in meeting the territory’s housing needs, it is clear that politicians at all levels need to support homeownership.

At the conclusion of the her housing tour, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq concluded that Nunavut’s housing problems lie “squarely with the federal government that needs to do more to support the NHC (Nunavut Housing Corporation) and every organization in Nunavut,” she told APTN News in March. “The NHC can only do what it can with the money it is given.”

There is no doubt that the feds are guilty of severely underfunding the Nunavut Housing Corporation, and there is a dire need to address the disastrous social housing conditions.

However, if it wants to truly make a difference in the lives of Nunavummiut, the territorial government needs to start listening the plight of people like Eccles,

The truth is there will never be enough money to solve all the territory’s problems. But those in power need to make a concerted effort to find innovative ways to make sure people have the ability to invest in their future.

Eccles’ post suggested the now defunct Homeowners Assistance Program, which was an incentive by the territorial government of NWT in the 1980s and ‘90s, could be used as a potential model for building new market homes.

In a letter responding to Eccles, Housing Minister Margaret Nakashuk, explained several reasons why that particular program is no longer feasible.

She also pointed to the NHC’s 2018 review of homeownership, which revealed that just 16 per cent of Nunavummiut could afford to own a house.

That number may be where the territory is at now. But if the GN wants to retain homegrown talented young professionals, that number will have to grow. Otherwise the territory will risk losing the very foundation upon which its future depends.