N.W.T. housing corp. did not ensure fair decisions: Fraser
The Northwest Territories Housing Corp. has done a poor job of ensuring local housing authorities are making fair decisions on who should get into public housing, federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser told MLAs in Yellowknife Tuesday.
Appearing before the territory's standing committee on government operations, Fraser said local housing authorities often have their own rules for deciding which applicants are approved.
"We didn't specifically see any indication of favouritism," Fraser said Tuesday.
"We did see a couple of cases where people were allocated housing that didn't qualify. And there was no explanation, or sufficient explanation, as to why that occurred."
Fraser's remarks, which were based on a report her office released on Feb. 15, echoed long-standing complaints from people in outlying communities who have applied for public housing.
Fraser's audit of the housing corporation looked at 74 different applications for rental housing at five of the N.W.T.'s 23 community-based local housing organizations.
Five applicants were given priority, the report stated, even though those applicants were less qualified than other people seeking housing.
Furthermore, 14 applicants were given housing without being properly assessed, according to the report.
The decisions of local housing authorities are currently final, but Fraser recommended setting up an appeal process for those who believe they were unfairly assessed.
Reconsider local housing responsibilities: MLA
MLAs on the standing committee, which is tasked with responding to Fraser's audit, also questioned housing corporation executives on the findings of Fraser's report.
"I hear you say you're planning; I hear you say you've been planning," Great Slave MLA Glen Abernethy said at one point. "I still don't see the results."
Housing corporation president Jeff Polakoff told the committee the results are there: "We've been implementing many things — not just planning to implement, but we've been doing many things over the last number of months," Polakoff said.
Tu Nedhe MLA Tom Beaulieu said MLAs should reconsider giving local housing organizations the responsibility of running public housing programs in the communities.
Beaulieu, who served as president of the housing corporation from 2000 to 2004, said local housing authorities face a tough job when they have to make decisions that often affect the lives of their family members.
"Removing the local authority to do those things and transferring responsibility to, say, the N.W.T. Housing Corp., could be an option that this government should look at," Beaulieu said.
It is up to MLAs to decide which, if any, of the auditor's 76 recommendations to follow. The committee is expected to table its response to Fraser's report during the next session, which begins May 22.