'The issue is so desperate for solutions'

Nunavik social housing in state of crisis


The man responsible for Nunavik's housing service says the region is in a state of crisis.

According to Andy Moorhouse, president of the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, by this summer more than 1,000 additional homes will be needed to lodge all residents properly.

But current government construction plans are doomed to fall far short of the demand.

Currently, between 50 and 60 new houses are built each year. The region needs at least 140 new units a year just to keep up with population growth.

"The issue is so desperate for solutions that the frustration is being passed on to all of our staff," Moorhouse told Makivik's annual general meeting in Inukjuak.

An anonymous point system determines who gets available shelter first. It is designed to head off accusations of favouritism.

Nevertheless, angry Nunavimmiut who want roofs over their heads routinely put pressure on local housing staff.

Long waits for maintenance also inflame people's moods, said Moorhouse, who complains that he too has had to wait for repairs to be completed on his home.

Chronic damage to houses causes a domino effect that is leading to a steady deterioration of the condition of many buildings.

The region has at best 30 full time staff to keep up with necessary repairs to more than 2,000 houses. It is estimated that one maintenance worker is required for every 60 units.

Meanwhile, random violence is targeting the equipment and dwellings of the southern construction workers who are contracted to build new houses in Nunavik's communities.

"We need their services yet we are harassing them," Moorhouse said. "That's wrong."

Quebec's minister for aboriginal affairs, Pierre Corbeil, told the Makivik meeting that the Charest Liberal government is committed to tackling the problem at a regional housing forum to be held in Kuujjuaq in May or June.

Moorhouse says he's eager for that event. "KRG and Makivik have been doing their part, but we've never had the star opportunity that we'll have at the forum," he said. "We'll be ready to justify our position there."

The regional housing bureau estimates that $500 million is needed to solve the crisis.

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