As Trudeau confirms existing housing money, Nunavut’s premier makes the best of it

“It’s the prime minister making the announcement and that’s a good thing”

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern make their way to an outdoor press conference in Iqaluit’s Happy Valley neighbourhood this past Aug. 2. (Photo by Jim Bell)

By Jim Bell

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq knows the territorial government’s not getting nearly enough money to meet its social housing construction needs, but with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau standing beside him this past Aug. 2, he was much too diplomatic to criticize the Government of Nunavut’s federal funders.

Following the completion of deals signed on Aug. 1 to create the Tallurutiup Imanga protected marine area and the start of a new protected area called Tuvaijuittuq, Trudeau’s staff summoned reporters the next morning to an outdoor press conference held at a vacant lot in Happy Valley.

There, Trudeau announced confirmation of how much social housing construction money will flow into Nunavut housing over the next eight years: $290 million.

“We recognize that this is a big step forward that is going to make a huge difference,” Trudeau said.

But those funds are made up mostly of previous commitments made in the federal government’s 2016 and 2017 budgets.

And the money doesn’t come close to helping Nunavut get all the housing it needs. The Nunavut Housing Corp.’s latest numbers estimate a need of about 3,100 new units.

That represents about 5,000 people, or 2,500 families, in Nunavut who are in need of adequate housing.

“The funding will give us approximately 83 houses a year, so if you do the math you can see it will take us quite a while to get to 3,100. We’ll never get there,” Savikataaq said.

That 83-houses-per-year estimate isn’t new. Savikataaq told APTN this past March that his government expects to build 83 housing units in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

That’s down slightly from the 91 units the GN expected to build in 2018-19.

Though the numbers will likely vary a little from year to year, that’s what Nunavut can expect to build annually, between now and about 2026 and 2027.

The bulk of Nunavut’s housing construction money was committed by the federal government in 2016—$76.7 million—and in 2017—$240 million, topped up by contributions from the GN.

Nunavut received no funds for social housing construction in 2019, prompting George Hickes, the Nunavut finance minister, to say this last March: “The lack of Nunavut-specific measures is disappointing, and remains critical in successful nation-building.”

But Savikataaq, this past Friday, said it’s still useful that Trudeau took the time to talk about Nunavut housing in Iqaluit.

“In my opinion, it means the federal government is giving us priority. It’s the prime minister making the announcement and that’s a good thing,” Savikataaq said.

“It’s still a positive thing, because it brings it to the front and starts the conversation and lets everyone know about our desperate needs for housing in Nunavut.”

As for homelessness, Savikataaq said that while the city government is “doing its part” in Iqaluit, there’s an obvious need for homeless shelters, transitional houses and emergency shelters in outlying communities.

He said government officials have talked a lot about that, but he said the GN only has so much money and has to direct it to where it’s needed the most.

As for Nunavut Inuit associations and corporations, which are now raking in cash in all three regions from mineral production royalties, Savikataaq said there have been ongoing talks about their getting involved in housing, but nothing concrete has happened.

The 2019 Inuit Nunangat Housing Strategy, co-developed by the federal government and by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said the Inuit organizations in Nunavut “are keen to help address the severe housing shortage in Nunavut.”

But the plans the Nunavut Inuit orgs are looking at do not appear to be aimed at the kind of low-income people who generally live in subsidized public housing.

Instead, the Inuit orgs of Nunavut are looking at affordable homeownership for Inuit who now live in government, business or private rental housing.

“The program would also support and promote home ownership as a means of wealth generation and career creation that would further lessen the financial burden on governments,” the strategy said.

In 2016, 56.4 per cent of Inuit lived in overcrowded homes and 34.3 per cent lived in homes needing major repairs.

And in 2017, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported that within the private market in Iqaluit, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom housing unit was $2,597.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Concerned Inuk on

    I wonder how many Premiers do photo ops with the PM to re-announce funding that really didn’t help the problem?

    The GN doesn’t have a strategy to address the housing crisis in Nunavut, except complain, and it doesn’t do that very well either!

  2. Posted by Three Years to Wait on

    The funds were committed in 2016 and they aren’t even released yet? In case the Premier isn’t aware, the conversation started a long time ago.
    Do we have to wait another three years to see any action?

  3. Posted by tuktuborel on

    Just for comparison. Calgary just announced that they are building 665 units for housing at a cost of 28 million. Nunavut can only build 83 units a year for roughly 36 million, (290 million over 8 years). Yes it is costly to build in Nunavut but something has to be done to get the costs down to a reasonable level per unit. GN has to take a different (better) approach to meet our housing needs. We need to follow Greenland and other countries lead to deal with the housing issues in Nunavut.

    • Posted by NNI hater on

      How about eliminating the wasteful NNI policy? It only forces potato companies to be formed and a true northern established contractor or supplier should be able to undercut a southern firm anyways.

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        I’m interested in the details of why you would think that a northern contractor could necessarily underbid others? I’m not saying that I disagree with your statement, I’m just curious.

  4. Posted by Patti Boudreau on

    Dear Mr.Prime Minister,,, The Canadians in the south of our country are tired of hearing about what you are doing for our northern communities and facts show…. not much. Our leaders need to address this crisis and stop pushing pennies around that don’t accumulate to much. I for one continue to be appalled at the lack of resources and support itaking place for the residents of Nunavut. Shame Mr Trudeau and all the Liberal MP’s.

  5. Posted by Colin on

    You may recall that Trudeau promised to close the gap between his much-vaunted Middle Class and Indigenous peoples. In his mandate letter to Minister Bennett he wrote: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”

    Trudeau could have found out of petty cash the entire amount needed for all 3,000 units urgently needed today in Nunavut if he hadn’t forced the oil industry to forgo $80 million a day in revenue and a hundred billion in capital expenditures.

    Then there’s the $384,000 that Trudeau spent on gourmet food and fine wines just for five flights on his jet. And there’s the $12.5 million donation to the Loblaws food chain and $10.5 for the terrorist Omar Khadr, the terrorist who sued originally for a hundred grand. Then there’s the $25 million to the UN’s Palestine relief agency that’s a front for the banned Hamas terrorist organization.

    The list of waste, failure and broken promises goes ever on.

  6. Posted by Nunavutmuit on

    Well the least someone can do is put in effort for Nunavutmuit, it is a long process in the working as money is buy in, in everything we need nowadays. Change is good, but what is our Canada’s PM doing in the stand?

    I see so many struggles that us inuit have no choice but to live with our parents/siblings/friends. Such a heavy toll, my word to the ones struggling with Public Housing is keep on trying, do what you can, work so that you’ll show them you are in need.

    I’m glad to see Joe Savikataaq is doing is part!!!!

  7. Posted by Will the Conservation Economy Build Homes? on

    Trudeau had two reasonable options in his mandate: pony up the money for the 3000 units or engage Nunavut in a realistic talk about economic realities and encourage the territory to start doing better – that’s a talk that Premier Joe might even be up for, although it would infuriate many.
    But he did neither of those things, opting instead to trumpet the “conservation economy” around Lancaster Sound, which might provide a few dozen jobs but allows Inuit organizations and many Inuit to indulge in the alluring but toxic fantasy that being a “guardian” and going on boating trips and watching out for foreign polluters is the basis for an economy. It’s not. There are many ways forward but many ways to get even more dependent. In the immortal words of Barack Obama “don’t fall for the okey-doke!”

  8. Posted by Edwin on

    LEVERAGE , to have the suffering of a strong tolerate people at your disposal for the past few hundred years let’s give these ,them,they, some housing, projects that should have been implemented since time of every stolen deal for use of land ,

  9. Posted by Nuna Vick on

    Trudeau or whatever government arrives next should commit a def % of GNP to housing every year in The North. Instead of the spontanious ‘gifts’ of monies to other groups or countries …Trudeau-support your own people …if not first, at least as well as the others. N. G.

    • Posted by Brian on

      I agree w Nunavut Guy …spend at least the same amount at home as you give away abroad.

  10. Posted by BM on

    They spend too much on facilities that people don’t put their efforts into and less for the need of well being. We have three schools and lots of broken city halls in a population of 2000. The Government is spending more on minorities with classes that take little regard to a major problem of living in the north. over crowded houses, lack of goods jobs will suppress the concept of having positive impact on the community. even if the were provided with all the need and education, if they don’t fix this problem, they are wasting there time. If they wanted education, they will work hard to seek education, no one will stop them from what they desire, but if you keep smothering those that don’t have interest, you will wast your time and money. So as to mental health programs and institute, you can try to teach all day and night trying to put words and ideas to better them, at the end of the day, they will go home to a problem people ignore. I know people have done some great things by working together, I’ve seen it happen, they have erected large building and made lots of money, I wish they new how to spend there effort wisely and know the difference between productivity and counterproductive things.

  11. Posted by Putuguk on

    It is incorrect to say that homeownership would not address the needs of low-income people that “generally live in subsidized public housing”. There are many working families living in public housing right now, as it is mainly the only type of housing available. These are the families that need to be supported and targeted for homeownership.

    With the right support and assistance, working families could build and own their own homes. Within a hours or days of a family moving into their own new home, another family will be moved, by the housing association, into the public housing unit they have just vacated.

    A new public housing unit only benefits one family.

    A new targeted private home provides housing for a family that has income. By removing this family from the ranks of those in need of social housing, this new house also benefits another family that has no immediate prospects of maintaining their own dwelling.

    This is double the impact of of public $$ from simply building more public housing.

    More public housing needs to be recognized as a failed or incomplete strategy that has been tried for decades and not once kept up with demand.

    Obviously the Inuit Orgs get this. GN and the general public need to open their eyes and see the same thing.

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