Labrador father and children can't find affordable home
Nunatsiavut government says family falling through the cracks, wants province to help
It's been a tough 14 months for Corey Everard and his children since they moved back to Labrador from Alberta.
The 45-year-old single father of two said they've been been staying with friends and family because he can't find an affordable place to live in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area.
"It's hard. My children are getting pretty upset with me bouncing around all over the place. I'm sure they want something stable. So do I for them."
My children are getting pretty upset with me bouncing around all over the place.- Corey Everard
Everard moved back to Labrador after working for five years as a construction site supervisor in western Canada.
He said he's been raising his children on his own ever since their mother passed away, and that it was hard to be in Alberta without friends and family around to help.
Eligibility criteria questioned
Everard got a job at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay wharf off-loading boats shortly after arriving home, but said getting hours hasn't been easy and now he's run out of employment insurance.
He worries that he won't get enough hours at the dock to collect EI this year.
Everard said he's way down on the list for affordable housing — The Melville Native Housing Assocation and Newfoundland and Labrador Housing told him that he made too much money last year.
"I don't understand why it goes by your last year's income. It should go by what you're making now. That don't make much sense to me."
To be considered eligible, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation states that an applicant's total annual household income has to be below $32,500.
That criteria needs to change says Roy Blake, Ordinary Member for Upper Lake Melville with Nunatsiavut Government, suggesting that the cut-off be increased to $50,000, closer to what it is in Labrador West and in Inuit coastal communities.
"I think $32,500 that's been put in place a very, very long time ago. Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Melville Native Housing need to understand that since Muskrat Falls, rent here has skyrocketed," Blake said.
Using private contractors
Blake said there are vacant housing units in Upper Lake Melville, but they need repairs and there is a shortage of maintenance staff to do the work.
He's floated the idea of hiring private contractors to Labrador MP Yvonne Jones and MHA Perry Trimper as a solution.
Since Muskrat Falls, rent here has skyrocketed.- Roy Blake, Nunatsiavut government representative
"If these places are vacant and can be filled, why not do it? If their employees can't find the time because they're too busy doing other work, I think this would be a an easy fix," he said in an interview with Labrador Morning.
Ten affordable housing units are currently vacant in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
"I think steps need to be made to ensure these places are being renovated to get people in off the streets and people who need them, people who are couch surfing."
The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation employs two maintenance staff to work on 84 units in Happy Valley-Goose Bay while the Melville Native Housing Association operates 75 units with two maintenance staff.
"Where possible we use our staffing resources from other regions to assist or we try to use contractors. Of course contractors are not always readily available due to the many other large projects in the area," NL Housing wrote in an emailed statement.
Falling through the cracks
Everard said he's offered to fix up a vacant NL Housing unit so that he and his children can have a place to live. He's also asked social services for assistance to help feed his children but was told that he has to have a fixed address to apply — an address he just doesn't have.
Blake believes Everard and his children are falling through the cracks and wants to see the provincial government get rid of the fixed-address criteria for clients who need social assistance.
"Something needs to be done here. I've seen people getting housing quicker than this. Believe you, me. Other levels of government can help here. Minister Dempster, Minister Hawkins. I think they need to step up to the plate here."