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.
It would be nice if the minister would share her responses. Are 16% of Nunavumiut (in communities besides Iqaluit, Rankin and Cambridge Bay) in their own homes?
I feel a new home ownership program is more important than the overpriced, over built, never going to be sufficient public housing program. NHC continues to follow the same doomed policies from when public housing first came to be. Pay the most for the least, never properly maintain the units, rent scale, waiting lists etc…. There are people in my home community of Kinngait who own their homes. I think quite a few would not qualify for home ownership now but guess what, they have their own homes and are living in them and maintaining them. Sometimes they may need help. NHC has good home repair programs (limits have not changed in many, many years) but with increases in costs they are no longer sufficient. I am sorry to say this but they need to change their main focus from housing everyone to housing just the poor. The only way to do this is make a huge investment in private housing. It makes more sense to just give people houses (people who make enough to afford to take care of them) than to build more public housing units at ridiculous costs. I would not suggest this is the way to go but with public housing the GN never stops paying. They build the units, maintain the units, retrofit the units, pay pretty much all of the utilities, insurance, land costs etc… They collect basically nothing in rent. Why would anyone think this is sustainable.
I have had 5 different people this year approach me about building them a house. There is basically nothing to buy and with no outside help the banks usually won’t touch them. The program where the NHC paid the materials and the homeowner paid the contractor to build the unit was a good program. It should be renewed. I see quite a few local people who work at the GN Office here in Kinngait that pay maximum rent. They should be in their own homes. At the same time the GN is short 100’s of staff units. Add it up. I am sure most of the politicians probably live in a Homeownership built house.
I am a contractor and you may think I am only trying to get more work but more work for local companies is a good thing. Why would this be bad? All communities need to develop a real estate market. The first step in doing this is to have capable local contractor’s to build and maintain the homes.
Inaction by the housing corporation is so frustrating and tiring for me but I have my own home. My wife and I were able to get into an ACCESS house in the mid 90’s. At that time you could do some of the work on your house yourself. The amount of work done reduced the amount you had to pay back. It was a great program. We have since built a second house. Our first house was passed to our family.
People in public or staff housing are stuck and people with no housing are stuck even worse.
Making advances in our housing situation is possible but a huge shift in thinking is needed. Thanks for reading my long winded rant.
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