Nunavut Housing Corp. seeks ways to trim costs

Each public housing unit costs about $26,700 a year to maintain

Recent fires in Iqaluit, like this one earlier this year in the city, have resulted in the loss of public housing units, the Nunavut Housing Corp.’s Terry Audla told Baffin mayors on Wednesday at their annual meeting. The losses come at a time when many need units and the utility and maintenance costs for public housing units, $26,700 per year for each unit, are taking up more of the housing corporation’s budget. (File photo)

By Jane George

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.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Guy on

    $32.5 million in rental arrears!!!! Seriously!?! To me this is the real story here, Exactly how many more housing units could be built if everyone actually paid their rent?

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      It’s not worth getting oneself into a snit over the rent arrears N. Guy. Through 20 years of NHC (NWTHC before that) and 5,000 tenant leases representing 20,000 + tenants it’s a spit in the ocean.

      Much of the arrears is owed by deceased, much more is owed by Family Services to NHC: too often the $60 per month GN rent cheques were lost by the tenants en route to the local housing association office or were tossed into the garbage. You can almost say that 75% of the arrears is “clerical error”.

      Ironically, perhaps, is that most of the rest of the arrears, is owed by the wealthiest tenants in public housing, and we know where they work by default.

      Around $2,000,000,000 (that’s two billion) has been directly spent on housing in NU over the past 20 years. Past rent due is not the problem. Look around your NU community and then see if you can offer some better insights. Let materiality and matching be your guides.

  2. Posted by pissed off on

    The brunt of the matter is that municipal government levies along with the power corp amount to nearly half of the overall costs.

    If the power corp and the municipalities were run more efficiently, this transfer of payments would be much less.
    It is the government charging the government at will without much accountability.
    Changing the funding structure from the present one to maybe block funding to the municipalities would help streamline process of providing public housing to the population . In the great majority of the Nunavut communities, the Housing corp is the main user of power and municipal services. Over and above the Corp you have the GN maybe a bit of Federal Gov buildings and then a sprinkling of private businesses and homeowners. A real serious review would be welcome and might result in a reorganisation of funding that would be healthy.

    Thank you

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Thanks PO. Can you give us some examples of how “… the power corp and the municipalities [could be] run more efficiently…”?

      And are you sure that “Changing the funding structure from the present one to maybe block funding to the municipalities would help streamline process of providing public housing to the population”? If so, how?

      You also state that “In the great majority of the Nunavut communities, the Housing corp is the main user of power and municipal services.” Do you have statistics to confirm that? If so, please provide those so we can analyse them, before we hire you to do “A real serious review [that] would be welcome and might result in a reorganisation of funding that would be healthy.”

  3. Posted by Rob M Adams on

    Thank you Jane (George) and Terry (Audla). It’s curious that Terry should be delivering his speech to a group that is a co-recipient of the Federal filtering and recycling program (FARP).

    Water, sewer and garbage services are provided by the Hamlets and the $600 of property taxes is levied by the Hamlets. That means $10,400 of GN funds makes its way from GN to Hamlet (GN) after filitering through NHC (GN). The Hamlets receive the rest of their funding directly from GN other than bits they receive from specific federal infrastructure programs and the odd federal employment grant.

    Power is provided by QEC, a GN crown corporation. So, $4,900 of GN funds makes its way from GN to QEC (GN) after filtering through NHC (GN). QEC receives the rest of its funding directly from GN other than bits it receives from specific federal infrastructure programs and the odd federal employment grant.

    Fuel is provided by the Petroleum Products Division (PPD), an agency of Community and Government Services (CGS), a ministry within (you guessed it) GN. So, $3,200 of GN funds makes its way from GN to PPD (GN) aftering filtering through NHC (GN). PPD receives the rest of its funding directly from GN other than bits it receives from specific federal infrastructure programs and the odd federal employment grant.

    That covers NHC’s public housing unit annual operating costs other than the amount local Housing Association (HA) administration and maintenance get, which by Terry’s reckoning adds to $8,200. If we reduce any of the Hamlet, QEC or PPD income that filters through NHC, GN would have to provide more funds directly to those organizations, reducing the amount it’d have to provide NHC for those costs, which brings us to Terry’s speech audience.

    If he had ideas for FARP, he should have been speaking to his minister (Lorne Kusugak of the CGS ministry, which by the way, is also responsible for Hamlets and QEC), asking Lorne to speak to his fellow ministers.

    Or Terry could have spoken directly to his reports at NHC, the Boards at the Housing Associations or the tenants themselves to find ways to reduce consumption (reduction is another program to consider) or improve productivity (yet another topic for consideration).

    Rent is a source of “income” for NHC, which Terry mentioned in his speech. Don’t get me started on that. I’ll just say that most public housing folks’ income is derived directly from GN other than bits people receive from specific federal allowance programs and the odd federal employment grant.

    GN, the main proponent, administrator and recipient of FARP, receives its FARP funding directly from the feds other than bits it receives from specific federal infrastructure programs and the odd federal employment grant. Quite the program.

    • Posted by Bert Rose on

      Except QEC does NOT reveive any funding from GN.

      • Posted by Rob M Adams on

        In an extreme technical sense that is true Bert, notwithstanding that QEC is a crown corporation of GN, with a total monopoly, rates set by GN and reportable to the minister of CGS.

        GN’s ‘funding’ is more indirect (along the FARP line). Nearly all power generated and distributed by QEC is billed in part to GN under one subsidy or another to the tune of 30% of its revenue OR to one GN department or another for another 50% of revenue.

        Any non-sustaining capital comes through FARP. Yeah, YOU could say that “QEC does NOT reveive [sic] any funding from GN.”

  4. Posted by Kitikmeot Resident on

    Rob M Adams for Premier of Nunavut, the man has the answers.
    Move back up to Nunavut (Kitikmeot region) and run for MLA next election. I’ll give you a hint on where exactly to move to.
    You have my vote Rob.

    • Posted by iRoll on

      It doesn’t take much bluster to win your vote, lol

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      THANKS Kitikmeot Resident. Unfortunately, like iRoll, I’m lacking the humility and political acumen needed for the position you suggest. I also agree with iRoll that much of what I say is ineffective and loud. Hey, so it goes.
      NONETHELESS, too much of what is unfortunate in society is magnified in the disturbing condition of many of Nunavut’s citizens and the oppressive conditions which they endure. Disproportionately, much of the source of the disturbance is internal. In any other society, the leadership at many levels might be labelled oppressive. Each MLA in Nunavut comes from a community that is rife with despair, discord and darkness and is part of that circumstance.
      HOWEVER, that circumstance does not have to be. Neither is it necessary in a progressive society in the twenty-first century for transformation to be gradual. If Nunavut society is any meagre example of consensus, equal opportunity, effort, resourcefulness, sustainability or progress, then we are doomed.
      iROLL, please do something that will contribute to improvement in your Nunavut community. Volunteered your skills lately?

  5. Posted by JT on

    I don’t understand. $26,500/house x 550 units is $14,575,000/year to maintain. Is this the annual budget of the Iqaluit Housing Corporation?

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Roughly, more like $3.5M for ‘maintenance’, JT – so 33 maintenance guys cruising around town.

      The total operating budget for the IHA might be closer to $5.0M if there is some shared responsibility for staff housing (IHA acting as a subcontractor to NHC under FARP) and to include $1.5M for parts and administration.

      The utility bills are separate from that. Does it really matter whether IHA or NHC pays those directly? It’s under FARP either way.

  6. Posted by No Housing Corp. NHC on

    Nunavut is going on twenty and the housing situation is getting worse. They badly need new management who can work with more private home ownership ideas. The current regime has made the situation worse.

  7. Posted by Uncle Bob on

    I believe that that a major part of the problem is from building the wrong type of
    buildings in the North. No one should build Southern holiday bungalows in the North.
    No wonder mould growth is so rampant in these sub standard buildings, one has to keep the heaters going full blast to control the ingression of moisture into the buildings. Better designed buildings for these conditions should be a priority. Even schools need to be redesigned, they are nothing but bonfires ready to go up.
    There are better designed buildings for these conditions in existence to copy from.

  8. Posted by Rob M Adams on

    I WISH you were right Ubob, but unfortunately not. The art and science for housing construction in the north is well established. Before wood and other modern stuff was used, ice and skins were the go-to materials!
    THERE has been construction in the near-north and far north for a very long time. Guess what. Mold in Arctic homes has nothing to do with moisture entering homes from the exterior. Want to learn a bit about that? Live in Louisiana for a day. Nope, there is more than enough moisture generated within a home to create conditions for mold growth, and heat just accelerates that.
    FIRST of all, mold spores are everywhere. That ain’t changing. Yet, many homes in Nunavut do not have rampant or minor mold problems. Homes that are built identically to neighboring homes that are full of mold. Why do you think that is the case? Hint: To prevent mold growth, keep all surfaces clean and dry, and provide plenty of ventilation.
    NEARLY every home in Nunavut has venting and bathroom exhaust fans. Many have kitchen fans and exhaust. Anything built in the recent past has additional air handling. Do you think the occupants of homes with mold keep the exhaust fans and other air handling equipment in proper use? Do you think the occupants of homes with mold keep surfaces clean and dry?
    BEYOND the basic science, the main reasons for mold in Nunavut homes, is the same reason there is mold in the ghettos of Kingston and Kugaaruk, Cornwall and Chesterfield, and Peterborough and Pond Inlet. Do little things, UB. Observe your local HA in action. Observe which homes are being destroyed by their occupants. Observe which homes are overcrowded. Observe on-the-land cabin construction and condition. OBSERVE.

  9. Posted by Dollar Dollar on

    Social Housing is being used as the way to fund the Hamlets. This way the Hamlets are “generating most of their own revenue”.

    Why is this important? Since the Hamlets “generate most of their own revenue” they do not have to follow the NNI Policy. They can buy from the lowest price supplier. If the GN “gave” them most of their money directly, the Hamlets would need even more money because they would have to follow the NNI Policy and buy from the supplier with the lowest “NNI adjusted” price. Then things would cost the Hamelts 25% more.

    Nunavut Housing is just a “pass through” to fund the Hamlets. The price they pay for water and sewage and garbage has little relation to the cost of those services. If everyone stopped using water, sewage and garbage for a month most of the costs to the Hamlet would still be the same. So the Hamlet would still have to charge Housing the same amount. The “usage” based billing is just a sham.

    See, its simple economics.

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