NCC president suggests lease-backs for social housing

Tagak Curley, the president of the Nunavut Construction Corporation, says the Nunavut government should involve the private sector in finding long-term solutions to Nunavut’s social housing crisis.



IQALUIT — Nunavut needs far more than 100 new social housing units and should consider new ways of building them, the president of one of Nunavut’s largest construction companies says.

An interim housing report released by Housing Minister Manitok Thompson’s task force on housing, which recommended that 100 new social housing units be built this summer, doesn’t go far enough, said Tagak Curley, the president of the Nunavut Construction Corp.

“It doesn’t focus on the long-term. It doesn’t address the housing crisis at all,” Curley said.

Released last week, the interim report of the minister’s task force on housing recommended 100 new units, worth about $15 million, be built with money from the Nunavut Housing Corp.’s capital budget for next year.

A final report is expected to deal with longer term housing issues, including the rent scale, the costs of the housing program, the role of the Nunavut Housing Corp, economic development and home-ownership programs.

But Curley said whether the task force will fulfill that mandate has “yet to be seen,” and he wants them to listen to the private sector for solutions to Nunavut’s housing crisis.

“If there is a crisis they should be looking at more than one mode of delivering housing,” Curley said.

Possible options include public-private partnerships such as lease-back arrangements, Curley said.

Under such an agreement, private developers would build units and then lease them back to the Nunavut government. At the end of the lease the units would be owned by the government.

If the claims of a social housing crisis are true, Curley says the Nunavut government’s coffers will never have enough money to build adequate social housing on its own and must tap into the private sector and its ability to raise financing.

“Is there in fact a shortage of government capital? If there is, is there a role for the private sector? Is the government prepared to consider private sector delivery?,” Curley asked. Curley is calling for public hearings on the housing crisis with the private sector properly represented.

Curley said policies and guidelines need to be put in place to allow the private sector to play a role.

As one of Nunavut’s largest housing companies, the NCC could be one of the key players and as such could stand to gain from new construction.

But Curley said he just wants the government to use more than one method of building social housing.

“I’m not at all suggesting it should be NCC,” Curley said.

But if the government continues to build houses using the traditional tender construction approach, southern firms with cheaper costs will likely beat out NCC for the contracts, Curley said.

Curley argues it may appear cheaper to contract a firm to construct a government unit, but he said in the long run not enough houses will be built and not enough local jobs will be created.

Housing Minister Manitok Thompson’s task force on housing is expected to submit their final report on March 31, 2000.

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