North

'Land issues' thwart new public housing units in Iqaluit

Iqaluit is not getting any new public housing units this year, despite being ranked by the Nunavut Housing Corporation as the community most in need.

'Until the land issues in Iqaluit are solved, we cannot build any more houses,' says minister responsible

Iqaluit is not getting any new public housing units this year, despite being ranked number one by the Nunavut Housing Corporation as the community most in need. (Katherine Barton/CBC)

Iqaluit is not getting any new public housing units this year, despite being ranked by the Nunavut Housing Corporation as the community most in need.

"Until the land issues in Iqaluit are solved, we cannot build any more houses," says the minister responsible, George Kuksuk.

The issue, Kuksuk says, is that the city doesn't have any lots ready to be developed for five- or 10-unit housing complexes.

MLAs started reviewing the 2016-2017 capital budget for Community and Government Services Tuesday.

When asked about the Iqaluit land issue, Community and Government Services Minister Johnny Mike said the city never contacted him about the problem.

Department officials said they will meet with the Nunavut Housing Corporation and the city to discuss concerns, and come up with a five-year strategy.

But George Hickes, the MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, says it's too late. He says he understands the city is too cash strapped to develop lots, but more planning should have been done.

"I think there should have been more consultation with Community and Government Services, with the Nunavut Housing Corporation, with the city of Iqaluit, to recognize that this need was coming, that this situation was coming and get ahead of it," Hickes said.

"It seems everyone is in a reactive mode now and I don't think that's the right way of doing business."

Hickes said people come to him constantly with housing concerns, such as overcrowding, lack of housing, or they've been on waiting lists for public housing for "many, many years."

He plans on talking to the new city council about the issue.

Housing by the numbers

The Nunavut Housing Corporation uses a formula to determine which communities are most in need of public housing units. It looks at the existing number of units compared to how many applicants are on the waiting list.

Any community with a waiting list that could fill up 40 per cent or more of its housing stock is considered to be in critical need. 

Iqaluit is at 72 per cent, followed by Pond Inlet at 60 per cent, Kugaaruk at 45 per cent and Naujaat at 41 per cent.

The NHC's Housing Allocation System document states, "For 2016-2017 public housing allocation, communities with greater than 40 per cent need, that have land available will be allocated public housing units regardless of whether staff housing is needed."

This year, Pond Inlet will get 10 public housing units, Kugaaruk will get five and Naujaat will receive 10.

The Nunavut Housing Corporation's 2016-2017 capital budget for public housing units is $12.5 million. It has allotted $75 million for 2018-2021.

The housing corporation has estimated it would take over $1 billion to meet the current demand for housing in the territory. 

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