In the endless war on mould, Nunavut doubles down

Housing corporation plans to spend $30.7 million on mould removal over the next six year

Social housing units under construction in Iqaluit several years ago. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

The Nunavut Housing Corp.’s war on mould is turning into a long, expensive slog. But they’re dead set on achieving victory, the corporation’s acting minister, Joe Savikataaq, told MLAs last week.

Savikataaq said on Oct. 22 in a minister’s statement that the corporation has spent $24.1 million on mould remediation to date, and over the next six years plans to spend an additional $30.7 million, starting with $5 million during the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“Progress feels slow, but the Nunavut Housing Corp. remains committed to a future in which we have remediated every single instance of mould in our public housing units,” Savikaataq said.

So far, the corporation has removed mould from more than 147 units in 19 communities. They’ve also trained staff at all 25 local housing organizations in mould remediation.

Last summer, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq toured communities in the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions to document poor housing conditions, saying some people are living in “mould boxes.”

Savikataaq, however, said the NHC plans to fight mould “as never before.”

“To the public housing tenants who have mould in their units, I ask them to call their local housing organizations and let them know immediately. Please do not delay; do it today.”

In a committee of the whole discussion the previous day, Oct. 21, Terry Audla, the president of the NHC, said the money will allow the corporation to remediate mould from about 44 units per year.

In response to a question from Arviat North–Whale Cove MLA John Main, Audla said the corporation will work with local housing organizations and try to give priority to communities hardest hit by mould infestations.

“What we will do is we will be reaching out to the local housing organizations and work with them, as well as with the contractor, to ensure that those communities that have the most instances are going to be given the priority that they need to be given, and to ensure that we address those that have potentially a lot more instances of it,” Audla said.

On the same day, Savikataaq had presented the housing corporation’s capital budget for the fiscal year that starts next April 1, totalling $78.3 million.

It’s made up of $48.5 million to be received from the Government of Nunavut, plus another $29.8 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., Savikataaq said.

The Nunavut government’s $48.5-million capital contribution to the housing corporation next year represents the largest single item in the territory’s $164-million capital budget for 2021-22.

The Department of Education’s capital budget is the second largest, at $35.2 million, followed by the Department of Community and Government Services at $26.5 million and the Department of Health at $24.5 million.

As for social housing construction, Savikataaq said the government will construct 35 new public housing units and 12 new staff units across the territory next year.

Construction costs skyrocketing

But the NHC is running into a big problem that will likely reduce the number of new public housing units it’s able to build each year with the limited number of dollars available to them: escalating construction costs.

The average cost of building a single social housing unit in Nunavut rose to a whopping $641,831 in the 2019-20 fiscal year, Savikataaq said on Oct. 21.

That figure is more than $100,000 greater than the average per-unit construction cost for the previous year, 2018-19.

“Back in 2017-18, the average cost per unit was $481,000; in 2018-19, the average cost went to $533,689; and in 2019-20, the average cost went up to $641,831,” Savikataaq said in response to a question from Iqaluit-Manirajaq MLA Adam Lightstone.

“It’s a bit shocking, seeing an average cost increase of over $100,000 in one year alone. That is very significant,” Lightstone replied.

To figure out why that’s happening, the housing corporation, through a request for proposals issued earlier this year, has hired a consultant to review housing construction costs, Savikataaq said.

The firm, whose work has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to submit a report before the current legislative assembly dissolves for the next territorial election in the fall of 2021.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Sarah K on

    Wash your walls. Keep your floors clean and clear of piles of stuff. Use bleach and water on the areas that look infected, immediately. Take action. Problem solved.

    • Posted by K Sarah on

      Except when the mould gets into the gyprock which, is the unsolved problem.

    • Posted by iigugaluaq on

      No matter how many times you clean it, its going to come back all the time!!!!

  2. Posted by Old trapper on

    I remember side of the tub had mould housing working just mud it and paint over it now it came back the way it was year ago

    • Posted by Sam on

      Water from the shower/bathtub will cause that.

  3. Posted by Robert N Pruden on

    I remember finishing up a kayaking journey at Rossville, MB. Kind folks let me camp in their backyard right beside the Nelson River. I heard them complain about mould in their house. They kept a very very clean house…as clean or cleaner than any I have seen in Edmonton, where I lived at the time. The mould penetrated into the walls from the outside due to moisture which penetrated from under the house. The true problem for most reserve houses, the way I understand it, is that contractors take advantage of government funds by cutting corners on construction costs to increase profit…at the expense of the people who live in the homes. If your home was built improperly for the area it was built in, then you will have problems with it, including mould problems. You can spend billions of dollars bleaching mould away…but if the house construction has been done poorly, the mould will always return. Drywall must be kept dry, inside the house and also from the outside…if it isn’t, then it will cause mould to form.

    • Posted by Inuk1 on

      This is correct, especially in Nunavut where Government contracts are seen as a cash cow. There is no incentive to building a proper home, that would mean they require less of your services in the future. Especially when everyone views your Government as a joke anyways they can get away with it.

      • Posted by David on

        But there should be a territorial building code and there should be a government hired inspector making sure all buildings meet this code. How is this complicated? What am I missing here?

        I don’t see how it is all the builder’s fault here….. there has to be more to it.

        • Posted by Contractor on

          Multiple issues.

          1. Don’t build in the rain unless you really, really know what you are doing. Water goes in the walls and roof during construction and the building is destroyed before it is even finished. You have to keep water out of the roof, walls and floors.

          2. Preferably, don’t use dry-wall, unless you are building walls inside a completed building shell. They are good as a fire retardent between units, but they cause breathing problems from dust.

          3. Nunavut uses the National Building Code. Most of it only applies to high-rise towers. Much that is relevant is common sense, like requiring 2 exits. Some is wrong for Nunavut, such as requiring exterior doors to open outward. That’s good for getting out quickly in case of a fire. But it’s bad for getting out when the wind has piled snow up to the top of your door.

          4. Building inspectors get hired from time to time. Then someone hires them away for more money as a general contractor.

          5. The more. The building is financed by the government, built by one company, owned by another organization, and maintained by a third organization. Everyone is minimizing their costs and maximizing their profit by maximizing the costs and headaches for the others. Each building is constructed as a one-off. There is no building of construction capacity in Nunavut. More than 1900 tradespeople were brought into Nunavut for construction this summer.

  4. Posted by Concerned tenant on

    What I see is local housing not fixing leaks in a timely faction. Special contractors hired to correct mould problems by just replacing fixtures with the same old products and expecting the mould to not return. Old saying, definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting deferent results.

  5. Posted by Math on

    Driest climate in the country, mould really should not be an issue. Overcrowded homes, no air exchange, and messy living could be the culprits. I have owned several homes in Nunavut. Two of them had mold issues when I purchased them and I corrected it, never to return after years of living there.

  6. Posted by Disgruntled on

    Absolutely nothing is happening regarding mould in Kivalliq or Baffin. Kitikmeot is doing a great job though.

  7. Posted by Copperinuk on

    The problem is the Government doesn’t listen to the frontline workers, we’ve been telling them that the units that have been built between 2004-2019 are too air tight and needs ventilation to breath. Trapped moisture is than absorbed by drywall, woodframe, plywood under tile’s thus creating mould. I’ve worked as a maintainer for 15 yrs and regardless of what you tell NHC no one listens, instead they have these “engineers” that are smart and know what they are doing so were following their lead. Yet they live in a totally different climate and dont fully understand how thing work up here. Try building an igloo and light a candle with no vent and see what happens, now vent the igloo and see what happens to the candle. It’ll stay lit. Recirculation of air is the answer whether its through mechanical ways such as HRV or just simply venting units like you do to your cabin. Cheap and efficient!

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