Arviat is the third largest community in Nunavut, but like elsewhere in the territory, the infrastructure needed to support its growing population has been slow to catch up.
Most housing in the hamlet is small and compact — not nearly large enough to meet the needs of many families (like the Aggarks, profiled by the CBC earlier this month).
“It's not like you have 12 people in a big large farmhouse or a large house like you would see in a city,” says mayor Bob Leonard. “You have 12 people crammed into a very little, tiny three-bedroom house in the North… It’s a big issue. People need space."
There is some construction going on. The Nunavut Housing Corporation started construction on several new ten-plexes this past summer. In the end, the hamlet will have 50 new public housing units.
But even fifty new housing units aren’t expected to end overcrowding and that's a concern for health officials. Sandy Ranahan manages the local health centre. “Studies have shown that overcrowding, smoking, improper nutrition are contributors to respiratory illness.”
A new hamlet office and a new school are also going up. Other buildings are needed, but finding land to build on is also an issue.
"The area where our home was built is already starting to sink,” says James Kigusiutnak. “It’s a muddy, swampy area. It would just make more sense to build on land that is dry and can withstand the infrastructure."
More buildings, and more infrastructure, will also mean an increase in demand for municipal services, and that adds a whole other dimension to the problem of growth.
“We’re still delivering water by truck,” say Leonard, “taking away sewage by truck. How big do we get when that is still feasible?”
“We’re expecting probably to have eight water and sewage trucks out on the roads when these new houses are all finished. That's a lot of vehicles running around with small children on the road.”
The mayor wants to work with the new legislative assembly to find ways of providing more support for his community.