Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 29, 2012 - 6:21 am

Cash-poor Nunavut Housing Corp. faces tough future: Taptuna

"We must continue to seek out alternatives as well as additional funding"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Construction of social housing, similar to these units in Cambridge Bay, can't keep pace with needs in Nunavut. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Construction of social housing, similar to these units in Cambridge Bay, can't keep pace with needs in Nunavut. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The Government of Nunavut can afford to spend only a small portion of the money needed to meet the territory’s continuing lack of social housing, Peter Taptuna, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp., said Oct. 25.

It would take at least 20 years at today’s prices for the GN to eliminate the current housing shortfall in the territory and meet the needs created by population growth, based on the average cost of $350,000 per unit and the 2012-13 total GN capital estimates of just over $94 million for all Nunavut, Taptuna said.

And that’s if 100 per cent of capital spending targeted the construction of new public housing units every year, and these units continued to be supplied as GN-owned public housing in the same manner as in the past.

Taptuna provided this information when he presented the corporation’s 2013-14 capital budget.

The Nunavut Housing Corp. plans to increase the fire damage and replacement fund by $2.4 million in 2013-14 to replace four public housing units destroyed by fire.

The housing corporation will also spend $8 million for the construction of public housing units.

But that won’t go a long way towards meeting current needs for public housing: the Nunavut Housing Needs Survey showed that 3,580 more units are immediately required, Taptuna said.

“Furthermore, we estimate that an additional 90 units will be required each year to keep pace with population growth based on current Nunavut Bureau of Statistics projections in the proportion of the population currently dependent on public housing,” he said.

The cost of maintaining public housing will also become a critical issue.

That’s because Taptuna said the money that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provides Nunavut each year is scheduled to continuously decline from its current level of $21.9 million until the money completely dries up in 2037.

This will further affect the GN budget when the Nunavut Housing Corp. acquires sole responsibility for operating and maintaining the existing housing stock, Taptuna said.

As well, with the current annual cost to operate and maintain a single public housing unit close to $23,000, the completion of 1,011 units under the Nunavut Housing Trust and Canada’s Economic Action Plan means the housing corp already carries an extra $23 million of increased annual operating costs.

Even if Nunavut could afford to build the 3,580 housing units the territory needs, it couldn’t handle the extra operation and maintenance costs, Taptuna said.

“The increased annual operating cost in today’s dollars of meeting the current additional housing need of 3,580 units would be $82.3 million plus an additional $2 million each year for the 90 units added to keep pace with population growth,” Taptuna said.

The housing corp is also owed $18.5 million in arrears.

The solution? “We must continue to seek out alternatives as well as additional funding to address this critical housing issue,” he told the MLAs.

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