Liberals use housing money to solve political crisis

Federal minister peddles solution to problem that will be key issue in next election

While federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser calls Nunavut’s housing crisis “solvable,” a recent funding announcement gives Nunavut $27 million to help municipalities prepare for the construction of new homes like this one in Iqaluit, seen in a file photo from before 2020. (File photo)

By Corey Larocque

If Nunavut’s housing crisis is “solvable,” as federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser says, it will need more than just “support.”

The solution requires a lot more money, more attention and more work than he put on the table last week.

Fraser was in Iqaluit on Jan. 4 and 5 to make two funding announcements — $194 million for infrastructure projects, including an elders home in Rankin Inlet and a water treatment plant in Sanikiluaq; and $27 million to support the building of 459 homes over three years.

He called Nunavut’s housing crisis “solvable” during a Jan. 5 interview with a Nunatsiaq News reporter.

“Despite the enormity of the challenges, they’re solvable and they will only be solved if we work in partnership with those who live with those challenges and understand where the solutions lie,” Fraser said.

Don’t take this the wrong way. Federal financial assistance will definitely be helpful.

But the announcement looked like the government was trying to dazzle Nunavummiut with two impressive, big numbers — $27 million, 459 homes — and counting on people not doing the math.

That amounts to an average of $59,000 a home — a fraction of what it costs to build a housing unit in Nunavut.

On Wednesday, Fraser made a similar announcement in Prince Edward Island. The federal government gave $5.8 million to “fast track” 100 homes in Summerside — an average of $58,000 a home.

Money from what Ottawa calls its Accelerator Fund won’t immediately put a roof over anyone’s head.

The government’s news release explains the money is for the stuff a municipality has to do before a home can be built. That includes reducing parking requirements, streamlining development application processes, creating a private land development framework and expanding affordable housing delivery.

Nothing about paying for building materials or hiring someone to swing a hammer.

Iqaluit Mayor Solomon Awa said his city’s $8.9-million portion will help with “planning” and “location-finding.”

Before anyone moves into one of the 459 homes that last week’s funding announcement is “helping” to build, a lot more money is going to be needed. Where’s that going to come from? More public money? Developers? Individual home buyers?

It’s not just the housing crisis the federal Liberal government wants to solve. Housing represents a political crisis when there’s a good chance there will be a federal election in 2024.

Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives have come on strong since last summer, tapping into Canadians’ widespread discontent about housing. Everywhere, homes are hard to find and they’re not affordable.

You can be sure Nunavummiut and all Canadians will hear about the Accelerator Fund’s benefits when Liberal candidates are on the campaign trail.

If Nunavut’s housing crisis is “solvable,” as Fraser contends, wasn’t it also solvable in 2015? And 2019? And 2021?

Trudeau’s Liberals have been in power for eight years. Is Nunavut’s housing situation better or worse today than it was eight years ago?

While the both the federal and territorial governments are spreading money around to “support” the construction of homes, to make the housing crisis “solvable” they need to finish the job and put roofs over people’s heads.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northerner on

    Nothing has changed. Nothing ever will. Just yakkity yak Herr and a yakkity yak there. Here a yak. There a yak. Everywhere a yakkity yak.

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  2. Posted by Reality on

    It’s solvable, but only by people not having kids that they can’t afford to pay for. The ever-expanding population of people in a region with very little local economic activity is the root cause, and it’s untouchable.

    Nunavut people don’t even fill their own jobs, and they resent those who do. That too is a root cause. Also, Nunavut residents have been trained to believe that housing should be free, with just a symbolic payment every month.

    When people have been trained to believe that problems are for outsiders to solve, and that there is no such thing as a root cause, then the “housing problem” will never end. Housing shortage is a symptom though, it’s not the real problem.

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  3. Posted by Inuk on

    If gov’t didn’t relocate our people there woundn’t have any problem like this. What about inuit they were been forces like residential school. But if inuit were trying to tell what they have problem, there wouldn’t be any action but if they try to tell you what you are doing, you just going to use your job position power and that person is going to be think as an complain alot. If we are really canadians how come we can’t have like walmar, different banks, be in professional sports.

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    • Posted by Walmart on

      Walmart wants to be where they can make good profits. You can’t make good profits here, contrary to what you think the Northern Store is doing. They get the majority of their profits from other regions in the world. The extreme logistics involved in shipping goods in Nunavut will always cause the prices to rise. I don’t know why people can’t wrap their heads around this. Go to south Africa and ship me 1kg of grapes for under $30 and have them arrive fresh. I bet you can’t.

      Banks serve the people when they have a need to, but I feel like the vast majority of the population uses WeCards because their credit is already in the toilet. No bank is going to invest in a territory that will suck them or their clientele dry.

      Professional Sports make their money off ticket and concession sales in arenas that hold more people than the population of Iqaluit.

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    • Posted by David on

      IMO It’s largely that Nunavut is a “collectivist” territory within a capitalist country. I am well aware that when the Nunavut Agreement was signed Nunavut insisted it would continue to “collectivist” lifestyle. The truth is, “collectivists” don’t enjoy the same quality of life as capitalists. End stop.

      Capitalist western countries are living the highest quality of life in the history of mankind. I cannot think of anywhere in the world where a “collectivist” economy”s quality of life is even remotely close to Canada’s.

      That’s the bottom line. For example, just look at the most corrupt province in Canada, Quebec. How are they able to build houses in Nunavik so much cheaper than Nunavut?

      From your perspective, Nunavut’s problem is lack of money. From my perspective, Nunavut is the most wasteful territory/province/region in Canada. Stop wasting money and quality of life will improve.

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      • Posted by Nonsensical… on

        What are you talking about lol?
        .
        This has nothing to do with collectivism being a total failure and capitalism being the way… even you, you brin up housing in Nunavik as a counterpoint to housing in Nunavut, and anyone who knows both places can tell you there is clearly more of a private market for housing in Nunavut than there is Nunavik. Across all of Nunavik private housing is pretty rare, there is much more subsidized housing in Nunavik than Nunavut.. so your example is proving the opposite of your point.
        .
        Nunavut has much more of a “capitalist” set up than Nunavik, especially when it comes to housing.
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        Either way, I don’t think the issue is capitalist vs collectivist approaches, it’s about costs generally. Nearly all the costs of things in Nunavut are going to be higher than in Nunavik as it is less accessible and more costly to ship materials to. But the addition of people trying to sell things in the ‘free market’ at profits up here definitely don’t help when compared to Nunavik…

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        • Posted by David on

          You’re right, it’s about costs. That’s what I am talking about. Collectivists don’t see costs the same way as capitalists….. it’s about perspective.

          I am referring more to how homes are built than ownership. Nunavut’s tendering process is the exact opposite of a capitalist process and makes no attempt to lower costs. Don’t all housing packages start in the same ports, shipped by the same sea lift companies? How do you account for the huge increase in price between Nunavik and Nunavut?

          Someone can correct me if I am wrong. Last tenders I have read about in Nunavut were $1.1 ad $1.3 million/home. How did the price double in a couple of years? What is Nunavik paying? Pretty sure less than half.

          Nunavut often portrays itself as unique, but it isn’t, there are lots of arctic regions with lower costs of living. One reason the GN’s costs are higher is the collectivist approach to spending the money…. it’s very wasteful.

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          • Posted by Nonsensical 2… on

            Your example still goes to the opposite of your point: Nunavik has a more collectivist approach to building homes than Nunavut, and they achieve better results.
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            As much as you want to use this topic as a reason to blame “collectivism”, your repeated example proves the opposite: the more “collectivist” entity has the cheaper costs and more efficient set up than the more “capitalist” Nunavut.
            .
            So either you are wrong about ‘collectivism vs capitalism’ being the root of this issue and the differing results, or you need to change your example to prove that point.
            .
            Maybe GN leadership is just worse and bad at their jobs than their equivalents in Nunavik are – despite the equivalents in Nunavik being more ‘collectivist’? I would say that is much closer to the truth, personally. IT is not ideologically motivated, it is a result of incompetence or lack of caring.
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            And if anything is ideologically motivated and giving different results- it is actually ‘collectivism’ (meaning the Nunavik approach, using your terms) that is achieving a better result than ‘capitalism’ (Nunavut’s approach).
            .
            You can barely shake a stick at a build in Nunavik that hasn’t had to go through more collective hoop jumping than what happens for builds in Nunavut…

  4. Posted by Northerner on

    Maybe nunavut should look into buying modular homes. Or tiny homes. Trailer homes. Pre fabricated. Don’t need to hire builders.

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    • Posted by Umilik on

      The first installment of Nunavut 3000 consists of ~134 prefabricated, modular “homes.” The now-closed RFP (but not publicly-disclosed winning bidder) is still listed on the Nunavut Construction Corp Investment Group website (nccig.com). The specifications for these ‘homes’ is quite worrisome:

      – 2 bedroom ‘home’ are 1000 square feet, with a 12′ x 25′ building envelope
      – 3 bedroom ‘home’ are 1100 square feet, with a 12′ x 25′ building envelope
      – 4 bedroom ‘home’ are 1400 square feet, with a 12′ x 25′ building envelope

      The plus-side is that these places come fully-furnished, including beds, night stands, fridge/freezer and the like.

      • Posted by Would You Like A Free Mansion? on

        I live in a 1216 square foot 3 bedroom home. It’s perfectly adequate. It even has 2 full bathrooms. What’s worrisome?

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  5. Posted by Umingmak on

    These politicians must think that Nunavummiut are stupid. $27M isn’t even enough to build 50 homes, never mind 459.

    In the last round of successful NHC 5-plex tenders, the rate was about $878,380 per unit. This was in 2021, prior to the insane inflation that we’ve seen over the past 2-3 years. Using the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator, this is $967,314 in 2023 (they’ve yet to release the 2024 calendar.

    At this rate, $27M will be enough to build…30.9 units.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      Umingmak. Let me lock horns with you and tell you about how the 27.9 m will probably be used. First stage is purchasing the land where the houses will be built on. Than comes the building permit. Building permits look like they take forever. When the first stage is done. Than new funding will be provided or mentioned. Are you catching the drift? Do you get the process in which it plays out? Or should we butt some more heads and I try to explain?

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      • Posted by Umingmak on

        You clearly do not understand how land works in Nunavut. The land is not “purchased”. It is leased. Building permits are part of the procurement process, and are dealt with by NHC in collaboration with the contracted consultant. I’ve worked in the Nunavut housing system for years. I know how it works.

        Also, a note: I made a typo. It’s 29.9 units. So this funding doesn’t even build 30 units. $27.9M is little more than a drop in the bucket, and this entire announcement is nothing more than political theatre.

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