Nunavut Housing Corp. seeks ways to trim costs
Each public housing unit costs about $26,700 a year to maintain
There’s no end in sight to Nunavut’s “severe housing crisis,” says Terry Audla, the president and CEO of the Nunavut Housing Corp., who came to the Baffin mayors meeting in Iqaluit this week to talk about the challenges of managing and building more public housing.
The housing shortage been made more acute in Iqaluit, which recently lost two units to fires.
Meanwhile, Audla said the NHC continues to work on ways to reduce the costs of housing and eliminate the barriers that limit housing development.
At the municipal level, this means improving land availability and lot development, he said.
There’s also the need to lower utility costs. Audla said the NHC wants to address water and sewage costs, “the largest single expense for public housing.”
These exceed the combined costs of local housing authority administration and maintenance for the NHC’s stock of about 5,000 public housing units.
Overall, the utility costs have a big impact on the NHC bottom line, he said.
Here’s how the annual costs per public housing unit break down:
- Water and sewage: $9,000
- Power: $4,900
- Fuel: $3,200
- Garbage: $800
- Taxes: $600
That adds up to $18,500, with administration and maintenance costing another $8,200, for a total of $26,700 per public housing unit to keep them serviced.
As for new constructions, the NHC plans to build 100 public housing units and 14 staff housing units in 2019–20.
In the Baffin region, this means 20 new units each for Igloolik and Iqaluit, two housing units each for Hall Beach and Resolute Bay and five in Pangnirtung.
In the other regions in 2019–20, Arviat will see 20 new public housing units; Rankin Inlet, 10; Cambridge Bay, 10; Kugaaruk, 10; and Gjoa Haven 10, as well as five staff housing units.
While the federal housing money, consisting of $240 million earmarked in 2017 for 10 years, is good for planning, Audla said, the money doesn’t stretch far enough.
The number of new builds in future years will be cut to about 80 per year, he said.
Audla urged the municipal leaders to encourage tenants to pay their rents. That’s $60 for those on social assistance.
He also urged people with rent payment arrears, $32.5 million territory-wide, to seek repayment plans.
Anyone who wants housing should put their names on public housing lists so that the NHC gains a better idea of needs, he said.
Audla didn’t say exactly what the GN plans to do about the vacant staff units in communities, a long-standing annoyance for many communities, but said that the GN has reviewed its policy and should be announcing changes soon.