MLAs losing patience

Housing corporation must reinvent itself: Fraser


Nunavut Housing Corp., beset by growing staff shortages and an ever-increasing waiting list for accommodation, must find new ways to deliver services, says Auditor General Sheila Fraser

One year after she issued a critical report on the state of the Nunavut Housing Corporation, Fraser said the government and housing corporation need to find new ways of delivering services despite continuing staff shortages, suggesting Nunavut Arctic College might have a role in providing trades training.

"There's going to have to be some real serious thought given to the capacity of the corporation," Fraser said.

And Fraser's also concerned about the corporation's ability to deliver housing from the $100 million in funds announced in this winter's federal budget, given the apparent disarray at NHC.

"To be quite honest, even if there were 10 times the amount of money coming in I don't think they'd actually be able to cope with it," Fraser said.

Peter Scott, the corporation's president, told a meeting of the Legislative Assembly's government oversight committee the number of staff vacancies within NHC has increased to 25 from 23 during the last year.

Fully staffed, there would be 89 people working at the corporation.

Scott said the corporation had trouble recruiting for technical and accounting positions. But he said the recent economic slowdown is cause for optimism.

"With the change in the economy in the south we are finding more applications for positions," Scott said.

Scott also said the waiting list for social housing has grown to 1,400 from 1,200 a year ago.

But he said that's because people see construction of new units funded by $300 million in federal funds over the last three years, and figure they might have a shot at getting in.

In a report issued last May, Fraser found the housing corporation wasn't monitoring local housing associations well enough to know if they were meeting guidelines, did a poor job of managing construction and materials shipping, and questioned whether the corporation could meet its goal of building 725 new housing units and training 35 to 40 skilled tradespeople by 2010.

For its part, the corporation says it has told local housing organizations to follow a standard points system for housing allocation, cracked down on construction delays and issued a new contract for supply marshalling.

One of the auditor general's main criticisms was that NHC issued a marshalling contract to a Clyde River firm with no experience, causing construction delays.

Scott said the corporation is also working on a new strategy to deliver housing, and is teaming up with the Nunavut Association of Municipalities to develop a housing needs survey.

Iqaluit West MLA Paul Okalik was unimpressed. "I'm getting a headache" hearing about the corporation's staffing issues, he said, suggesting it shouldn't be difficult for NHC and local housing organizations to be on the same page and wondering why Nunavut is still waiting for a housing strategy.

"We have been studying this for way too long."

Baker Lake MLA Moses Aupaluktuk said he's heard complaints that internal strife at housing authorities is undermining service.

Pangnirtung MLA Adamee Komoartok said local housing authorities need to be better trained, because people in the communities don't seem to have a clear understanding of housing policies.

Fraser said she would have appeared to present her findings on the housing corporation sooner, but was delayed by last October's territorial election.

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