No solution in sight for Nunavut housing crisis
There’s a housing crisis in Nunavut, and MLAs say the GNWT is offering only band-aid solutions to relieve the most immediate problems.
Goo Arlooktoo, the minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, came under fire in the legislative assembly from MLAs demanding solutions for a housing crisis that’s forcing people to live in deplorable conditions in many smaller Arctic communities.
Natilikmiut MLA John Ningark wanted to know why Arlooktoo hasn’t addressed his concern that 19 families are being forced to live in homes in Gjoa Haven and Taloyoak which have no indoor running water while government staff houses, complete with a running water system and furnishings, sit empty.
He pressed Arlooktoo for a commitment that something will be done about the problem, even after the minister declared that most of the quarter million in housing dollars set aside for the Kitikmeot area would likely go to Gjoa Haven.
“The term he used ‘likely’ gave very little comfort to the communities of Gjoa Haven and Pelly Bay,” Ningark replied. “I am not comfortable with the term ‘likely’. Will the minister do it? And when?”
This is typical of the type of assurances MLAs are demanding for their constituents, but Arlooktoo is cautious about making promises.
Blaming the federal government for its complete withdrawal of funding for housing in the North, the minister said the GNWT is struggling to come to grips with the problem.
“Early indications are that we have an immediate need for 3,500 new units, just to address today’s need,” Arlooktoo said. “We have nowhere near that amount of funding.”
He said his department is doing the best it can with what it has. But that wasn’t good enough for MLAs, who spent several days hammering away at the issue.
Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco hit Arlooktoo with a barrage of questions relating to concerns in his riding, where about 70 families are on the waiting list for social housing homes.
“This government seems devoid of a social housing plan,” he said. “Isn’t is about time we put away the rhetoric and stopped blaming the federal government?”
Picco said the GNWT has been without federal money for years and during that time should have fleshed out a housing strategy.
Clyde River, the only community in the NWT still using old matchbox houses for rentals, was another thorn in Arlooktoo’s side last week.
Baffin South MLA Tommy Enuaraq wanted to know the government’s policy on the dozen matchboxes being used in Clyde River.
“Those old houses in Clyde River, the so-called matchboxes, they are in existence still because there is a great shortage in housing.”
Arlooktoo could offer no solution for the residents, except to say the matchboxes would be replaced with new homes by the end of the 1998-99 fiscal year.