N.W.T. communities welcome new housing, but worry over who qualifies for it

On Monday, the federal and territorial governments jointly announced there would be 126 new or repaired affordable housing units in N.W.T. communities. But Kakisa Chief Lloyd Chicot has worries over who will qualify to live in them.

'[NWTHC] needs to look at the area where we live and what our needs are,' says Chief Lloyd Chicot

Kakisa Chief Lloyd Chicot says he has worries over who will qualify to live in the newly announced affordable housing units in his community. (Peter Shledon/CBC)

A Northwest Territories community leader says the funding for new or improved affordable housing units is welcome news, but there are worries over who will qualify to live in them.

On Monday, the federal and territorial governments jointly announced that $60 million earmarked for the N.W.T. from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF), initially announced about two years ago, would be spent on 126 affordable housing units. 

About $34.5 million of those funds is set to go toward supporting Indigenous governments and organizations to create 66 affordable homes through the repair and new construction of mixed-income, mixed-tenure and mixed-use housing.

The rest of the funding will be directly distributed by the territory's housing corporation to construct 60 affordable housing units. 

In Kakisa — which is scheduled to get four of those new units — Chief Lloyd Chicot says he's happy that the government is moving on some of the promises that they made, calling it "a long time coming."

But, he is concerned that people will have difficulty qualifying for the new units in his community, where he says there are already vacant units that are deteriorating because people don't meet the income criteria. 

"Not everybody is capable of going to the bank and getting a mortgage," Chicot said.

"We're even having trouble here … to have a fire department and to get insurance for the units, let alone a mortgage."

One of the housing units that remain unused in Kakisa. (Peter Sheldon/CBC)

Chicot says that the economy of Kakisa is different from bigger centres and some of his members are struggling with sporadic work.

"Housing Corporation needs to look at the area where we live and what our needs are," Chicot said.

"Most of them can't meet the criteria for going into a unit where they have to maintain the utilities, the water and to manage the payment on a house on a monthly basis."

According to the N.W.T. Bureau of Statistics, "affordable housing" is defined as housing costs that are under 30 per cent of household income, taking into account rent payments, utilities, water, heat, and insurance.

Chicot says smaller communities like Kakisa end up on the short end of the stick compared to larger centres because the units don't necessarily meet the lifestyles of small-community residents. 

He also says members would like to see houses that are built for traditional lifestyle activities, like fixing hide or meat.

"People go out on the land, they harvest animals," he said.

"A house here in the community of Kakisa should accommodate some of those things. But it doesn't."

He says any additional funding received would go toward some of the planning that the community has been working on, like how to maintain energy efficient homes and addressing some of the obstacles that come with a mortgage.

Sarazine Boucher, an elder in Łutsël K'é, says it's been 10 years if not more since they've had new houses (Marlene Grooms/CBC)

'We've been waiting'

Another community listed to get four new units is Łutsël K'é, where some say it's long overdue.

Sarazine Boucher, an elder from the community, says it's been 10 years, if not more, since they've had new houses.

"I guess they've been sitting on it for a while, so that's good news to me," says Boucher.

She says that there are many families living in crowded homes and that the houses are much needed.

"I think that if they want to build houses, that should be done as soon as possible, not within the next two or three years from now. We've been waiting, waiting, waiting."

She says the old payment assistance housing that some people live in aren't well built and she hopes that the new homes are better quality and able to withstand the harsh winters.

"If they want to do something worthwhile and spend that kind of money, the houses at least should be good," Boucher said.