North

Feds announce new funding for 101 affordable homes in Nunavut

New homes will be built in Iqaluit, Sanirajak, Kimmirut, Naujaat, Kugaaruk and Pond Inlet thanks to a $45-million investment from the federal Rapid Housing Initiative.

Homes will be built in Iqaluit, Sanirajak, Kimmirut, Naujaat, Kugaaruk and Pond Inlet

Iqaluit on Nov. 14, 2021. The community is one of six in Nunavut that will see new affordable homes built from a $45-million federal investment. (Jane George/CBC)

The federal government is giving Nunavut $45 million to build 101 affordable housing units in six communities.

Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister for Housing, Diversity and Inclusion, said Friday the units will be built in Iqaluit, Sanirajak, Kimmirut, Naujaat, Kugaaruk and Pond Inlet.

"When completed, these units will support people who are vulnerable, including women and children, and those who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless," Hussen said.

"These projects will do a lot of good, and they're located right across the territory of Nunavut."

The funding will come from the Rapid Housing Initiative, a federal program that helps fund affordable homes and new rental units, among other things.

Nunavut Economic Development and Transportation Minister Lorne Kusugak, who is in charge of the Nunavut Housing Corporation, welcomed the news Friday and said the territorial government "intends to put these funds to good use during our construction season."

"With the costs of construction becoming more uncertain, efforts to find further funding become more and more important. We hope this funding signifies the federal government's continued commitment to housing Nunavummiut," he said.

Kusugak said his government keeps a list of which communities are most in need of affordable homes. That's how they determined the six communities for this funding, he said.

Lorne Kusugak is the Nunavut minister in charge of the Nunavut Housing Corporation. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Housing is listed as a top priority for the current Nunavut government. In January, Premier P.J. Akeeagok issued a plea for "true action" from the federal government on the territory's housing crisis.

In all, he noted the territory needs 3,500 housing units to address the crisis, at a cost of $2 billion.

The housing crisis has been linked to other challenges in the territory, from the frequency of lower respiratory tract infections in children to high suicide rates and poor education outcomes

The shortage of housing was also invoked as a root cause in the recent inquest into the shooting death of Jeremy Nuvviaq by police in 2017. 

'Should have happened long ago'

In a statement, Nunavut NDP MP Lori Idlout said high rent and a lack of homes in Nunavut often force people to live in "overcrowded, dilapidated houses," which hurts people's physical and mental health.

"Today's announcement is something that should have happened long ago," she said Friday, pointing to a housing report from her predecessor, former NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, that laid bare the terrible living conditions many Nunavummiut have found themselves in.

"Since then, not much has changed," Idlout said.

"It is essential that the Liberal government listens to housing experts and addresses the severe underfunding of the Rapid Housing Initiative which pits communities against each other for the limited resources available."

Timeline uncertain

Hussen said funding through the Rapid Housing Initiative usually has a strict timeline — homes have to be built and people have to be moved in within 12 months.

That timeline will be extended for this funding, though.

"Because of the unique challenges in the North, we are usually a little bit more flexible with that requirement," Hussen said.

Hussen said 100 homes is a "big number" for anywhere in Canada, but especially in Nunavut.

"I know it'll make a huge difference," he said.

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