MLA asks why GN staff housing allowance is unchanged in 15 years
Minister says ‘there are no homes to transition to,’ but adds housing programs will be reviewed
Nunavut’s finance minister was questioned Tuesday in the legislative assembly over the government’s household allowance, which one MLA said has not changed since it was introduced.
Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone asked Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak why the $400 monthly allowance has not increased in the past 15 years.
The Nunavut Household Allowance is meant to help indeterminate and term employees of the GN, public agencies and the legislative assembly offset the costs of renting or owning a home. People who live in housing already subsidized by government are not eligible for this allowance.
“There’s currently insufficient incentive for Government of Nunavut employees to transition out of subsidized housing,” said Lightstone, the MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak.
“Can the minister explain why the amount of the Nunavut Household Allowance has not changed by so much as a penny over the past decade and a half?”
Kusugak said he hopes to work with the Nunavut Housing Corp., which he is also the minister responsible for, to see how the allowance might be increased.
Lightstone also asked Kusugak why his department has deferred a review of the allowance program to the next fiscal year, when the household allowance policy is set to end April 1, 2024.
According to Lightstone, the household allowance program is important to look at because it is a “tool to encourage employees to move from Government of Nunavut staff housing into private market rental units or their own homes.”
Kusugak agreed this is an important initiative, but there is one problem. For many, there are no houses to transition to, due to the severe housing shortage across the territory.
“It makes it very hard when you are trying … to get staff to move from staff housing into the market … when there is no market,” he said.
Kusugak said he is also working with Nunavut Housing Corp. to review housing programs in the territory.
He said he will share the results from the review once it is complete, but did not offer a likely date for that.
Why didnt staff housing price gone up too? Should go up at least 2% per year like most rentals in canada
This has been a question for years by someone in the Nunavut Homeowners facebook page. Great to see it being said here. It has been years to identify the public display of the rates paid by staff housing to note the increase or the lack thereof. It should be public and in comparison to the increases in utilities.
Additionally, why not have the funds given to all qualified homeowners? There needs to be GN support to own your own. Or NTI for Inuit homeowners or for fuel, etc.
Housing allowance is impractically low ($400 per month), Subsidy on staff housing is impractically high (sometimes $2,500+ per month). Solution seems VERY simple, lower one raise the other.
dont forget, of that (low)$400 a month, its deducted so practically we get less that $200 out of that so called $400 allowance.
Exactly. You don’t need to be a policy professional to see the problem here. At a BARE minimum index the allowance and staff housing rents to inflation. More creative solutions abound from there, but the system right now is a slap in the face to Nunavummiut who do transition out of staff housing. (And people do move into private accommodations all the time. The excuse that there “no market” is lazy and demonstrably false.) And heaven forbid we consider solving two problems — building a market AND creating an equitable subsidy program — at the same time.
Oh yeah, and make staff housing a taxable benefit, same as the allowance
So by taxing the staff housing subsidy, the people in staff housing, who we want to move out to private accommodations to make room for the unhoused, will have even less money to do so with. Brilliant.
Staff housing is a taxable benefit, if the rate that is charge is considered below market rate. If it is not below the Basic Shelter value it is not taxable. CHMC and TB websites are a wealth of information.
Paying less rent on your sublet from NHC than NHC pays the owner (market run) would normally be taxable. You are taxed on a “free” parking place in any major city. The CRA seems to turn a bind eye to this practice in the north for some reason.
And who will monitor and enforce that?
Your staff housing subsidy rates are nonsensical. At best subsidies run at 10-15% of the market value of the unit. No one in Nunavut is benefittiing from a $2,500 monthly housing subsidy which amounts to roughly 50% of the market rental value of a three bedroom single family house.
Nahhhh market rents in the six story (for example) are about $2500 for a one bedroom unit; staff housing in that building costs $1000.
Employees in staff housing also have heating and water/sewer services provided for free. This can be massive additional savings depending on the size of the unit in question. The benefits stack up quickly.
Even better; keep the employee on a forever CSA so they don’t qualify for either benefit.
I’ll one up you. Make them a relief employee, so they get no benefits or security of any kind and have to work stat holidays for regular pay. Relief employees would kill for a CSA.
With the highest rates of leaving ever the GN should have more incentives to stay. When housing is now a million dollar reality in Iqaluit why would anyone leave staff housing? Also if you mess with staff housing after giving employees a wage cut (thanks NEU) then expect the bleeding to continue. Five years ago Nunavut was very competitive financially but it is rapidly becoming second or third to other jurisdictions in Canada.
Good question Adam, Lorne can’t answer it of course and is putting it off. Keep on him Adam, $400 for renting $2500-$3000 a month is ludacris.
Housing Minister why did you sell your own house and now living in not 1, but 2 rent free houses? A public housing in your home community and a subsidized house in Iqaluit that sits empty until Legislative sittings You would be a very good candidate to buy an affor$able house with your minister’s pay. With housing shortage all over Nunavut, it would be wise if give one or both of your free rent housing for people in dire need of a home. There are GN employees with no staff house too.
The fact that our officials want to promote the private housing market to their own workers is ridiculous.
Should the government not seek to increase control over the housing market? Is the privatization of our most important amenity really something the GN should put money towards?
In Nunavut every single cent that is spent eventually comes from the Federal Government.
The idea that millions upon millions of dollars worth of salary go to the parasitic landholding corporations, private landlords and Canadian Banks is ENRAGING.
We have a welfare system, lets stop wasting the handouts we get. Instead of funneling more money into the pockets of our greediest countrymen.
The truth is the main beneficiaries of high rent are Inuit owned landlords so of course the government props them up. They pay in rent all costs associated with ownership from taxes to insurance to maintenance and even landlord staff time but after 30 years in a lease the GN has no ownership. This is by design by Inuit elite and the Development Co’s. Yes there is Northview in here also but I would venture to say the majority of units are Inuit owned.
Maybe we should visit North Korea and see how they do it there?
Yes Adam!!! Keep on them. It’s astounding that the rate hasn’t changed in 15 YEARS. We do not need a comprehensive review to correct this. The GN provides no incentive to get out of staff housing and by the time they correct these terrible policies, the damage will be done. GN staff are already leaving in droves and they will continue to do so. It’s a slap in the face that this work is being deferred. It’s an employees market across canada and skilled workers will go elsewhere, myself included. GN wages and benefits have not kept up and it’s no longer viable to live here. Housing issues aside, grocery bills continue to climb and it doesn’t make sense to make a life here anymore, no matter how wonderful the work and community is.
Lorne does not need to talk to NHC in regard to increasing Housing Allowance as this is given to GN Employees who do not rent from NHC or PH. I don’t think he understood Adam’s question…
NHC Staff Housing charges are peanuts compared to “two income” in a household who resides in public housing or a federal employee in a crown housing!!
I’m reminded of a few years back when there was a couple from the south living in Iqaluit, one was a Director at Family Services and the other was Assistant Deputy Minister with Department of Health. Safe to say their annual gross income was close to $400,000 per year. Their children were grown and living their own adult lives in the south, so this couple lived in a 1-bedroom GN staff unit paying somewhere around $1,000 per month in rent. Does that seem right?
$1,000 for a one bedroom unit… seems steep to me
$1000 is less than half the price of a 1 bedroom in Iqaluit. The base price for a Nunastar 1 bedroom is $2475 (https://www.astrohill.ca/residential/astro-hill-6-storey). Typically costs around $1000 to rent a bedroom in someones home with shared kitchen, bathroom, entrance.
Anchoring bias detected.
It’s a Nunatsiaq comment, not an econometric analysis.
Do you think there are a large volume of significantly cheaper but otherwise comparable options on the open market?
Would Astro continue to offer that price if there were? It’s nice not to have to put on a coat, mitts and hat before going to the Storehouse, but it’s not that nice.
We may not have much of a functioning market here, but we do have market forces.
Do you really think Astro and private landlords would ever be able to charge these rents if the government leases and staff housing disappears? No. That’s because no one is going to move here and there will be no demand.
I submitted an ATIPP request one time to find out where the $400/month amount came from and my request was denied because it was a “Cabinet Decision” and not subject to ATIPP. Thanks for bringing this up, Adam. The benefit difference between $400/month versus subsidized housing is ridiculous, and the GN benefits immensely from every worker that moves from staff housing to household allowance.
I nominate Adam to be Minister of HR to fix this problem. oops sorry I forgot he took nepotism to the extreme and made some decisions that rocked Nunavut and made headlines
“he took nepotism to the extreme”
A brief, ill-advised acting assignment is extreme nepotism?
I suggest that you read the news a little more. Maybe start with the 2020 WE Charity scandal and Margaret and Alexandre Trudeau’s speaking fees. From there you can look up Ivanka Trump and her husband. Hunter Biden is also worth a look (make sure that your “Safe Search” settings are where you want them to be).
Major whataboutism. Pointing at other events doesn’t lessen the scandal and incompetence of Lightstone as Minister of HR appointing his wife as DM.
It’s a perfect illustration of his lack of understanding of the position as well as his well honed sense of personal entitlement.
Context is not whataboutism. The people I listed are not connected to Nunavut politics. If I had said “whatabout” about one of the MLAs that brought Lightstone down, that might have been whataboutism.
Besides, my point is that it’s not “extreme” nepotism. It may indeed have had a nepotistic element, arguably, but it’s pretty weak. As the other poster notes, maybe a couple hundred bucks. No one is buying a yacht with this kind of favouritism. The risk-return is horrible.
For those defending minister Adam on hiring his wife despite it being temporary and few hundred dollars worth, would a minister in southern canada be allowed to do that? I wonder if they invested the few hundred dollars to make it worth while. Nice try.
Minister Arreak-Lightstone failed to prevent the conflict of interest when his wife was acting for her DM boss (at the DM’s recommendation) for a couple of days over Christmas that one time. She probably took home 100 extra bucks for her troubles, max. But sure, “NEPOTISM TO THE EXTREME!!!”
“Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone asked Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak why the $400 monthly allowance has not increased in the past 15 years.”
Since the Minister could not / would not answer, let me answer for him.
I was renting privately when the $400 monthly allowance was introduced.
The first thing that happened was that the GN withheld $100 each month for increased income tax. My take-home pay increased by $300 per month. I was better off, for a few months.
The next thing that happened was that my landlord raised my rent by $300 per month!
The housing allowance went straight to the landlord’s bottom line. In a market where there is very limited supply, price goes up until it reaches the limit of what people can pay. Increasing the housing allowance only helps the private landlords.
If the housing allowance is raised to $5,000 per month it would encourage the private sector to build housing, except there are almost no building lots available anywhere in Nunavut.
Back in World War Two there was an expression, SNAFU. If you don’t know what it meant, ask your grandfather.
You’re correct about the lack of supply, building lots, etc. being a key part of the problem, and there should be more pressure on the City to fix that (doesn’t explain things in other communities, however).
The problem you point to about the landlords raising rents in tandem with the introduction of the housing allowance ignores the fact that the landlords also raise rents in response to the existence of the GN’s large and generous staff housing program.
Our spendthrift virtual monopsony sets the tone for the whole market. The landlords are all holding out for the big GN contracts, and are loathe to stoop to other options. We need to shrink the role of the GN (and other major employers) in the housing market, and allow for the evolution of a more diverse ecosystem of housing options.
Avocado is right, it is not the private market that is driving rental rates, it is mostly the GN/NHC with some help from the feds. The GN will gladly pay $3500 per month for a 2 bedroom unit with that 1980s charm, and they will do so for years on end with little hassle for the landlord.