GN, federal housing programs ‘could work in tandem,’ Fraser says

Ottawa’s pre-approved catalogue of designs could mesh with Nunavut’s so-called HAP 2.0, federal housing minister says

Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, seen at a government announcement in Iqaluit in January, says a new federal program to use a catalogue of house designs would be “complementary” to a plan the Government of Nunavut has to revive the Homeownership Assistance Program, that also had potential homeowners choose from a selection of house designs. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By David Venn
Special to Nunatsiaq News

During and after the Second World War, Canada faced a housing crunch. Soldiers were returning home and starting families, but had few options to find a place to live.

In response, the Crown corporation Wartime Housing Ltd. created a catalogue of homes designed to be cost-effective and easy to construct.

The designs were “pre-approved” and therefore avoided much of the usual red tape involved in building a house. Canadians who used these standard “strawberry box” or “victory” home designs avoided mountains of paperwork, architecture fees and high material costs.

Now, the federal government wants to borrow that framework for a modern version of the wartime catalogue to address the country’s current housing shortfall.

“This is not the complete solution, but it’s a big part of it,” Sean Fraser, Canada’s housing and infrastructure minister, said in an interview.

Since January, Fraser and his team have hosted virtual consultations with architects and territorial, provincial and municipal government representatives, among others, to discuss the best way to design the program.

Fraser announced Ottawa’s new catalogue program in December, just was as Nunavut Housing Corp. was finalizing a new set of housing initiatives, including a revamped Homeownership Assistance Program, or HAP.

The Nunavut Housing Corporation announced its plan — including what’s known as HAP 2.0 — on Monday.

Although the federal and territorial programs may sound similar, HAP — which ran in the Northwest Territories from 1983 to 1992 — and the federal program aren’t the same.

“They would be able to operate in a complementary way, but they serve a different purpose,” Fraser said.

HAP traded home ownership for sweat equity. Eligible residents could pick a home in a catalogue, receive the materials for free, and build the house themselves.

In March 2023, Nunatsiaq News published Our Home, a four-part series that examined the program’s pros and cons, alongside the challenges of reviving it. (The series has been nominated for a National News Award.)

Inuit, researchers and construction industry workers called HAP an affordable way to provide quality housing. They also said it was an empowering program that increased community pride, alleviated the public housing demand and made home ownership easier to attain.

Last October, Nunavut’s Housing Minister Lorne Kusugak said Nunavut Housing Corp. was “looking at creating a new Homeownership Assistance Program 2.0.”

That new program will offer forgivable $250,000 loans over 10 years toward the purchase of a materials package with a one-year residency requirement.

Further assistance could include project management or supervision, financial counselling, and training.

“Clients will present a plan for building where they identify the component of construction they undertake themselves or will receive help from family and friends,” its website said.

The federal catalogue provides designs for a standardized home and multiplexes, whereas the original HAP provided designs and materials free of charge.

“Our program is about efficiency [and] less about directly investing in the construction of new homes,” Fraser said. “The two could work in tandem.”

One area Fraser said the government will look to pin down during consultations is regional variances.

“If we work closely with the housing corporation in the territory, for example, and incorporate elements of design that could be produced en masse … we would be able to reduce the overall cost of building.”

The two governments have not yet met to see how the program might operate in Nunavut, according to Nunavut Housing Corp. spokesperson Sierra LeBlanc.

A lack of infrastructure, higher construction costs, a harsher climate: there are several stipulations the housing corporation and Fraser would have to work through, she said.

“Beyond these challenges,” LeBlanc wrote, “it’s important that homes built in Nunavut are culturally adequate and suitable and take into consideration factors such as family size or space to accommodate harvesting needs.”

Infrastructure Canada plans to announce findings from its consultation process in late spring and release the first iteration of the catalogue late this year.


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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by Articrick on

    Hard to take anything serious from the libs.

  2. Posted by It is Nunavut on

    Have you ever tried to work with another dept or agency? Unbelievable paranoia, unfounded hostility, and an incredible ability to not be collegial. Is it due to all the over-working (having do complete the work of vacant positions or those too “sick” to come in, as well as the difficulties presented by living there? Try this… ask IT for support. Head chewed off assuming it is dignified with a response and not lost in the matrix.

  3. Posted by Ben Decko on

    Would be cool if Funky Town, (aka Baker Lake,) got some.

  4. Posted by Northerner on

    Shed the light on the theiving MLA of Nunavut. Trudeau should launch an investigation into nunavut member of parliament for the money that he approves for nunavut housing. They received millions and millions millions of dollars. Enough to build up to date new schools or new health centers. Or better yet, nunavut housing.

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