Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 31, 2014 - 2:03 pm

Nunavut moves on 258 new public housing units

But territory still short well over 3,000 homes

The Nunavut Housing Corp. will build a total of 258 new homes in 2015-16. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
The Nunavut Housing Corp. will build a total of 258 new homes in 2015-16. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

The Nunavut Housing Corp. has tendered all 213 housing units flagged under its 2015-16 capital plan, the legislative assembly heard this week.

While the agency’s capital funding remains the same as last year — its budget sits at $34,362,000 — George Kuksuk, the minister responsible for the NHC, said changes to its procurement and project management has helped the corporation save close to $10 million this year.

That’s also thanks to $100 million in federal economic action plan funding doled out to the territory last year, Kuksuk said.

“NHC is planning on matching the $10 million in savings with NHC’s proposed capital funding for new public housing construction in 2015-16 to add up to another 45 public housing units to the 213 units originally planned under the federal funding,” Kuksuk told the assembly Oct. 28.

“By matching these funds, NHC is demonstrating its commitment to doing more with less and is looking to increase the impact of the federal funding by building a total of 258 new homes.”

To determine where those homes would go, the department worked with local housing organizations and expanded its wait-list to include those with arrears to “ensure that we capture the full extent of the need that is out there in each of the communities,” said Lori Kimball, president and CEO of the housing corporation.

That and the availability of land meant that different communities were ranked with higher housing needs this year: Iqaluit’s were considered highest, followed by Pond Inlet, Kugaaruk and Arviat.

Those communities have been allocated housing under the 2015-16 budget and all but Iqaluit will receive three five-plex buildings a piece as a part of the 45 additional units.

Iqaluit, Arviat, Whale Cove, and Sanikiluaq were all allocated units as part of the 2014-15 fiscal year.

But new construction is still well behind meeting Nunavut’s needs, which the NHC has said is growing by 90 units a years.

Kuksuk said last spring that Nunavut needs 3,580 new housing units to meet its current needs.

To help alleviate the housing crunch, the housing corporation said it has taken more steps to help Nunavummiut become homeowners.

“In the past, a number of my colleagues have expressed concerns regarding the $125,000 income eligibility limit applied across most homeownership programs,” Kuksuk told the assembly Oct. 28.

“In response to these concerns, NHC is introducing new community-specific, index-able, and realistic income eligibility limits that better reflect the realities of life in Nunavut,” he said, although he did not elaborate on those new limits.

Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt, chair of the standing committee on community and economic development, raised concerns about how the territory’s homeownership programs are benefitting Nunavut’s long-term residents and those living in smaller communities.

The NHC’s 2012-13 annual report, tabled last spring, indicates that there were a total of 213 “pending and wait-listed” applications for home ownership programs as of March 31, 2013, Rumbolt said.

But Rumbolt added that the report should also provide a break-down of how the programs are being accessed in small, medium and large communities to better understand their reach.

The corporation has proposed a $4.6 million budget for its home ownership programs in 2015-16.

And to help homeowners with the cost of heating their homes, the NHC has increased its Heating Oil Tank Replacement Program limit from $5,000 to $7,500, Kuksuk said.

Nunavummiut seniors and people living with disabilities can also now access more assistance for home repairs by increasing the NHC’s preventative maintenance program from $1,500 to $3,000.

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