Iqaluit resident wants city to fix run-down neighbourhood
“People respond to their environment”
City authorities have failed to maintain one of Iqaluit’s oldest neighbourhoods for so long, it’s starting look to like a slum, a long-time resident says.
Janet Armstrong, who has lived on Nipisa Street in Lower Iqaluit for 27 years, told city council Oct. 22 that she has seen her neighbourhood take a turn for the worse, starting with the lack of care for two housing authority buildings that were gutted by fire.
In a series of photographs she passed around to councillors at the regular meeting, Armstrong described two large derelict buildings, safety hazards on lots and roadsides, posts with street signs and traffic indicators removed, and mounds of abandoned mattresses left strewn around buildings by previous tenants.
Nipisa Street runs the length of the Lower Iqaluit neighbourhood in a long horseshoe, stretching from Queen Elizabeth Way and curving past the graveyard, just east of the city centre. It takes in many buildings numbered in the 100s, 200s, and 300s.
The street is lined with a mixture of public housing units and private homes.
Armstrong’s complaints centred around public housing units near the centre of the neighbourhood, starting with one burnt-out and boarded-up duplex, left unrepaired after a fire hit the building five years ago.
“A woman died in that fire,” said the long-time homeowner, who works as a teacher. “She was a student of mine.”
Armstrong told council she recalled her granddaughter asking her why the building wasn’t torn down.
“That building has sat like that for five years,” she said. She said questions by fellow family members to the Iqaluit Housing Authority, which she said is responsible for the building, drew blanks.
The family “were told that they did not want to tear the building down, because they were afraid of losing the lot,” Armstrong said.
Another public housing unit, part of a duplex not more than 50 metres away, has sat abandoned and boarded up since a fire damaged it in June 2012, she said.
“Someone died in that building, and shortly thereafter there was a fire,” she said. For more than a year, the housing authority “never cleaned up the lot,” even though a family continued to live in the unit next door, she said.
“They actually started repairing it this week, but it’s been like that for over a year,” Armstrong said.
In photographs, Armstrong showed mattresses strewn on other properties along the street, a common sight in spring and summer when tenants move in and out of rental and public housing units.
Other photos show old garbage boxes falling to pieces in front of properties, left in place after property owners built new ones.
The city is directly responsible for some of the neighbourhood’s disrepair, Armstrong said, pointing to poles that are missing street signs and traffic signs, and a roadside with a hazardous drop of more than two feet into a drainage basin.
“People respond to their environment,” Armstrong said. “You just can’t expect people to live like this.”
The mayor and city councillors agreed. John Hussey, the city’s chief administrative officer, promised the city would move on repairing signs, and examine roadwork in the area.
Councillor Kenny Bell, who recalled living in the area as a teenager, said the burnt-out units are the responsibility of the Nunavut Housing Corp. “We have been fighting with them to get that fixed up,” he said.
“As you can see they are starting to move, but it is sad,” he added, pointing to repairs started on the duplex unit.
The city’s lack of action on street signs and roadwork troubles on the other hand “goes to show we don’t continually keep up with our infrastructure,” he said.
Armstrong called for the city to introduce bylaws to prevent the problems she sees in her neighbourhood.
Property owners should repair or demolish derelict buildings within set periods of time, she said, and should be held responsible for keeping their front lots clean and free of hazards.