Town waives bylaw for construction firm staff houses

Over the objections of Inuit councillors, Iqaluit Town Council will allow two construction companies to build permanent staff houses in the West 40 to house transient workers.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT— The Town of Iqaluit has granted two local businesses special exemptions to build permanent housing in the West 40 industrial zone so they can ship up transient construction workers from the South.

The variance to the town’s zoning bylaw was granted to Tower Arctic and KRT Electric after town councilors decided Iqaluit’s need for laborers to keep up with the current building boom outweighed rules in the official town plan that prohibits housing in industrial zones.

The variance didn’t pass without protest, especially from Inuit councillors.

“It should be a trailer and it should able to be moved at any time,” said Coun. Simon Nattaq.

Deputy Mayor Ben Ell agreed, and said building the housing would only allow the companies to avoid hiring Inuit. He said this had happened in the past and resulted in people using industrial spaces as domestic dwelling units.

“We should not have people from outside coming into work when we have such high unemployment here in Iqaluit. It’s like we’re sub-human people who live here and people think they can just come in and trample all over us Inuit,” Ell said.

Construction workers should stay at local hotels, he said.

But when asked why the town staff were recommending the variance, Town Engineer Denis Bedard said the housing shortage created by an influx of territorial government workers affects construction workers also.

“One of the companies owns a hotel and they say they’re all full. They know if they have room or not,” Bedard said.

Tower Arctic’s president, John Jacobsen, was not at the meeting. But he told Nunatsiaq News this week that he had to ask for a variance to the bylaw because the temporary housing the bylaw allows would have been inadequate, since it is only allowed to stand for four months.

“Why would a businessman spend a quarter million on something he’s going to have to tear down in four months?” Jacobsen asked.

He said Iqaluit hotels are indeed full, and the need for accomodations in Iqaluit is acute.

“It’s a reality that people like KRT and ourselves have a need for staff accomodations,” Jacobsen said.

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