Nunavut community pleads for help to house residents

Taloyoak eyes vacant government units for housing authority staff or the homeless

“Given the enormity of the territory’s housing needs, public housing on its own cannot provide the solution to the territory’s housing crisis,” states the Nunavut Housing Corp. in its 2017-18 annual report, whose cover features this illuminated row of housing units. The report was tabled during the recent sitting of the Nunavut legislature, along with three letters about the pressing need for housing in Taloyoak. (Photo courtesy of the NHC)

By Jane George

The need for more public housing in Nunavut is so great that the concerns of a housing authority in a western Nunavut community came up last week in the Nunavut legislature.

The board of directors of the Taloyoak Housing Authority said the single five-plex under construction in their community won’t go far in responding to its urgent public housing shortfall, in a letter to the Nunavut Housing Corp., tabled on March 12 by Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq.

About one in five people in Taloyoak need public housing.

The housing authority’s chairperson, Christine Lyall, said Taloyoak currently lacks 94 housing units, for 228 people, who make up 23 per cent of the community’s total population of about 1, 000.

Of those 94 applicants for new housing, 17 have been waiting for more than eight years, Lyall said.

“We can expect this number to grow exponentially as more youth turn 19 and become eligible to apply for public housing,” she wrote to the NHC on March 8, in a letter copied to Qirngnuq and Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq.

In another letter, also addressed to the NHC, Lyall said there’s not even housing for their own staff. While the housing authority gets its money from the Government of Nunavut, they can’t use the GN’s two vacant housing units for staff, she said.

“This vacancy is in stark contrast with our territorial housing crisis where public housing applicants routinely wait five-plus years to get a unit,” Lyall said.

The Taloyoak Housing Authority asked for a review of the current policy regarding GN staff housing, so that housing authority staff can have access to GN housing in small communities like Taloyoak where “developed rental markets are non-existent.”

That’s a solution that would free up public housing units for the ones who need it the most, she said.

In another letter tabled at the legislature, Taloyoak’s mayor, Simon Qingnaqtuq, also wrote to Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik to ask for the community’s empty GN units to be used to offer the homeless shelter.

The NHC annual report for 2017-18, also tabled in the legislature, noted Taloyoak has a high need for housing, but its need is not the most critical in the territory.

That status goes to Kimmirut, Kugaaruk, Gjoa Haven and Arviat. These communities all have a housing need that is 50 per cent higher than their existing stock of public housing

Most of the planned housing construction, the NHC report said, 90 units, or 69 per cent of a planned 130 units, will go to those communities and others on the critical list.

The Nunavut communities with a “less severe” need for housing include Grise Fiord, Chesterfield Inlet, Pangnirtung, Coral Harbour, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute Bay and Baker Lake.

The NHC ranks Taloyoak as having a  “high” need, as it lacks 40 per cent of the public housing it needs.

The NHC report acknowledges that more needs to be done: “Given the enormity of the territory’s housing need, public housing on its own cannot provide the solution to the territory’s housing crisis.”

The report suggests that approaches such as home ownership, long-term federal funding, and partnerships with the private sector and regional Inuit organizations could help.

But numbers from the NHC report suggest most public housing tenants would not have the money to invest in housing of their own: 9,151 of 12,219 residents earn less than $27,041 and pay only $60 for housing per month.

Many have problems paying even this rent: across Nunavut collection rates declined to 83 per cent in 2017-18, NHC said.

About 3,000 new public housing units would be needed to meet Nunavut’s needs.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Why does everyone in Nunavut constantly make the case for the funding and construction of more social housing? Clearly the issue isn’t one of inadequate access to social housing it is an issue of poverty. People with good paying jobs don’t need access to social housing because they can afford market-value housing. In communities where most of the people are adequately employed and compensated the market will build for-cost housing to accommodate their needs. Nunavut doesn’t need to construct more social housing it needs to keep their children in school, to get them to proceed to some sort of post-secondary education and then have good paying jobs available to them once they are ready to enter the workforce.

    • Posted by Gale Leitch on

      Well, the more children women have, the more crowded their living space will be! Just a thought.

      What about government-sponsored training and guidance for the residents to build their own houses, as a community-led effort. They will learn skills in the process and build houses, overseen by a contractor. Honesty is a factor. It won’t work without everyone being on board to work towards a common goal… housing for everyone. This is one kind of government hand-out that makes sense. Just a thought.

      • Posted by Jimmy James on

        They had the HAPP (sp?) housing program in the GNWT days before Nunavut, seemed like a good program. The GN doesn’t have their act together to be that organized and run a program like that again.

    • Posted by What Market? on

      Under more optimal conditions the idea that those who make more would look to the private housing market is sensible enough, but in many communities such a market barely exists. So, left to their own devices many high income earners do not really have this option.

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        Conditions don’t have to be optimal, they aren’t in Iqaluit and there is a thriving private housing market. You just have to have enough people gainfully employed in the community and demanding their own homes for some entrepreneur to step into the void to build them houses. In the majority of communities in Nunavut at present there are few too few high income earners to make building homes a viable enterprise.

        • Posted by Market Dreams on

          “…for some entrepreneur to step into the void to build… houses.”

          Cool, when that starts happening in the smaller communities I hope you will please let us know. I can hardly wait to see who “some entrepreneur” turns out to be.

          The real issue as I see it is that these communities are totally unsustainable. The entire economy is built on the offering of Government services. There is no ‘market’ where there is no real economy.

          Over the long term these small communities will become veritable prisons of poverty for their populations.

    • Posted by Inuk Person on

      Many people with well paying jobs (in small communities) are placed in staff housing. If they are dismissed or quit from their jobs, they will have no more housing/be homeless.

    • Posted by Ivalu on

      If you really are truly a “Northern Guy”, you would know that communities outside of Iqaluit don’t have easy access to services needed to properly maintain a homeowner’s unit. Yes, there are people who do hold government jobs who can afford to purchase their own units and free up much need public housing. But homeowners in smaller communities find it very very hard to find private companies to help maintain their units. So that is one of the reasons why people are reluctant to become homeowners.

      • Posted by Rob M Adams on

        Thanks Ivarlu. I appreciate your comments which are possibly insightful if you live in an “unserviced” NU community. If not, then not.

        Perhaps there are a few NU hamlets that don’t have people skilled in basic home maintenance. You’d think with all those folks working for Housing, Hamlet and CGS, along with the long-term homeowners, there’d be a few who’d be available. But hey.

        As for parts, those who have had their own homes for a while know about parts. Many communities even have retail stores that sell parts, and have local contractors and trades people to install them. In some communities Housing Association sub-contracts. If someone wants a part for her honda or sled, it’s an online order away. That’s what many folks in NU do. I can add many more solutions and insights, but I’d rather that you did.

        How about looking for ‘how’ instead of ‘how-not’, for a change? I can’t find anything in IQ that talks about ‘how-not”. You?

  2. Posted by Build traditional houses on

    For thousands of years inuit housed themselves. We are constantly told how colonialism is so horrible and how everything has gone downhill since outsiders arrived. How about building housing the traditional way? It worked for thousands of years. It’s not as comfortable, and takes daily maintenance, but it works, and it’s not colonial. And you could have it done in a few days, it’s quick.

  3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    I’m not sure robbing Peter to pay Paul will help unless Taloyoak has an excess of government units which they have no use for. If you give away staff housing units you could get into a situation where you have no housing for specific positions if you have to hire outside the community or from down south.
    Commentator 1 and 2 have certainly posed “interesting” comments. The housing shortage is never going to go to bed unless the Federal government does a major injection of cash to build social housing in all the communities because they are all in need.. As for living in traditional houses ie skin tents and igloos and sod houses that’s not likely to happen and being a home owner is an expensive business even if you have a good job …, insurance, water, sewage, garbage, electricity, maintenance, house fuel, sudden emergencies like your furnace quits or a pump or hot water tank goes kaput etc….. It’s a money pit. I have seen many lose their homes to the bank because they just couldn’t keep up with all the expenses involved in owning your own home.

    • Posted by CLEAR AS on

      Many people lost their homes, because they borrowed a lot
      of money from the bank and did not pay it back.
      They confused the bank with the N.H.C.
      Completely different.

  4. Posted by Oscare on

    Stop relying on NHC to build social housing, they can only build with the funding that they are given from the GN and Federal Gov’t. Why cant the three regional Inuit development corporations or other developers pitch in to help construct social housing. This would alleviate the burden put on NHC and the housing crunch in Nunavut.

    As I see it, the three regional Inuit development corporations are too interested in the mining industry, that’s their priority to make money. Also some solutions are very simple: educate people on proper family planning, proper sex education in schools, family counselling skills, just to name a few. Another problem is that as soon as a couple starts dating, they are pregnant – no proper family planning.

  5. Posted by Bernie on

    The government of Nunavut or NHC are always encouraging the people to build their own homes, but when it comes to applying for emergency funding, they turn a blind eye. Believe me, it’s expensive. Paying for fuel, land lease, property tax, municipal services, power. I quit paying insurance when my house was paid off because I can’t afford it. Just because I work for the government, people automatically think I’m rich, believe me, I’m struggling.

  6. Posted by Rob M Adams on

    There is so much diversion and sleight of hand in this article. To compound the effort at delusion, both Taloyoak’s mayor (Simon Qingnaqtuq) and Christine Lyall, the KHA chair, tout a “solution”. Remember these are the mayor and the KHA chair!

    For example: “In another letter, also addressed to the NHC, Lyall said there’s not even housing for their own staff. While the housing authority gets its money from the Government of Nunavut, they can’t use the GN’s two vacant housing units for staff, she said.”

    Where to start? The Housing Association wants autonomy from NHC and GN so it can weave its own brand of control where allocating public housing, determining occupant density and defining housing staff productivity is concerned.

    THEN it wants the housing association staff to be treated as GN employees for the purposes of Staff Housing while demanding that the KHA employee positions be restricted to beneficiaries. Guess what? The staff are not GN employees, and even if they were, they wouldn’t be entitled to housing! Oh, what about Hamlet employees. GN indirectly pays their salaries.

    Of course, if the web COULD be woven to give GN Staff Housing units to preferred locals, the Mayor would call “WOLF” next time there was a “crisis” and there was no housing for the recently hired Social Worker, Mental Health Specialist, Student Support Teacher … ad infinitum.

    Too many (even if there is one-too-many) financially and technically able people are hoarding the precious few public housing units. Why is anyone commenting about entrepreneurs to build homes? More red herrings. NHC has programs galore for able people to be homeowners. We just need to find a few folks who are willing to undergo an attitude adjustment.

    • Posted by Kitikeot Resident on

      Hey Rob M Adams,

      I’ve read a lot of your comments the past year and you seem like a very smart and philosophical individual.

      Any chance you live in Nunavut? If so, where are you located and why haven’t you run for MLA yet?

      If you aren’t located in Nunavut, you should come up and shed some light and fix this mess that we currently have here.

      You got my vote Rob!

      No joke

      • Posted by Rob M Adams on

        Hey Kitik(m)eot resident. Thanks for your comment. I can’t recall seeing you comment before. Forgive me if I missed some of yours’.

        I don’t live in Nunavut. It was home for quite a while and I enjoyed every moment while I was there. I miss everyone whom I knew there and everything about it. I am also enjoying my new home.

        I believe that conditions and circumstances are worsening in NU for those who need improvements the most. From day one of NU (regardless if we use 1999, 1534 or any year in-between as year one) we have gone wrong. We continue to double down on a failed mandate, bureaucracy, infrastructure and process. That does not require much insight to conclude.

        Immerse in a community for a week. Read Hansard. Get a community directory of who has what. Read a few justice, health, addiction, education statistics. Listen to the rhetorical and platitudinous statements made by elected community, regional and territorial members or the reports from their appointed chairs. Read an independent auditor’s report. Look at the comments by the Mayor and Housing Board chair from Taloyoak.

        Separate the wheat from the chaff and what do we see?

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