North

928 people waiting for public housing in N.W.T., conference hears

In Inuvik, 102 people are on the waitlist for public housing. In Yellowknife there are 294, and Behchoko 128.

People in 'substandard housing and sometimes very overcrowded conditions,' says Nihtat Gwich’in Council

About 100 people attended the two-day conference, including chiefs and mayors from at least 24 of the N.W.T.’s 33 communities. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

There are more than 100 families and individuals on the waiting list for public housing in Inuvik.

That's one of the statistics presented at the Northern Housing Summit — the first one held in 10 years — this week in Inuvik.

During Wednesday morning's Indigenous Housing panel, Jozef Carnogursky, president of the Nihtat Gwich'in Council, said according to the N.W.T. Housing Corporation, there are currently 102 families and individuals on the list for Inuvik alone.

"Those are just the ones that are registered… to us, that's more than just a housing shortage," said Carnogursky.

Carnogursky said many of their members are in "substandard housing and sometimes very overcrowded conditions."

The whole idea of this is partnerships.- Patrick ( Dang ) Gruben ,  Inuvialuit Development Corp .

"In the meantime, we do have people living under buildings and in shelters," he said.

"We do find it unacceptable in this day and age that people are living in some of the conditions they currently live in," said Carnogursky.

The only two N.W.T. communities that have more people waiting for public housing are Yellowknife, with 294, and Behchoko with 128.

Patrick (Dang) Gruben, chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, says the conference is a good opportunity to talk to people from other communities about how they're dealing with the issue. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

In total, the N.W.T. has 928 people waiting for housing, the majority of which are looking for one-bedroom units.

Carnogursky said the federal government is showing a willingness to work with the North on the housing crisis.

"We need to take advantage of this opportunity and act on it."

No federal ministers

About 100 people attended the two-day conference, including chiefs and mayors from at least 24 of the N.W.T.'s 33 communities.

There were also representatives from across Nunavut and Yukon, federal organizations and the housing industry from across Canada.

N.W.T. Housing Minister Alfred Moses said they invited a "couple" of federal ministers to the conference.

"They're not here," he said. "I would've really liked to have seen them here for them to listen to how we are dealing with rural and remote issues."

A housing development in Inuvik by the Inuvialuit Development Corporation. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Moses said this is the first time there's ever been a conference on housing that's united leaders from across the North, and not just stakeholders.

"This conference is about hearing what the issues are in the communities and with our Indigenous groups," said Moses.

He also highlighted the N.W.T.'s Community Housing Support Initiative, which is a government program that works with community groups toward affordable housing.

Moses said going forward, he hopes to see this conference continue annually in one of the three territories.

"We are creating Northern solutions for Northern housing problems."

Lack of lots

In 2018, the federal government pledged $400 million toward housing for Inuit for the next decade. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation says it receives about $7.5 million annually.

"Because we are getting that funding, we also don't want to see projects slated for the region taken away and put in other places," said Patrick (Dang) Gruben, chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation.

The development corporation, a subsidiary of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, recently completed a six-plex in Inuvik, and is working on several housing projects across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

During his presentation Gruben said a shortage of land is also an issue in some communities.

"We have the main community in [Tuktoyaktuk], and we have a subdivision but nobody wants to move up to the subdivision. There are no lots in the community," said Gruben.

He said the conference is a good opportunity to talk to people from other communities about how they are addressing some of their problems.

"The whole idea of this is partnerships, let's work together to build the most units we can in each community."