Paulatuk family displaced to make way for government housing staff, says MLA

The MLA for Nunakput says a family in Paulatuk, N.W.T., is being told they will be displaced from their housing unit to make room for housing staff.

MLA Jackie Jacobson says housing minister promised to keep the family in emergency unit

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson said local people have to be prioritized in his constituency's meagre housing supply and that Housing Minister Paulie Chinna has to keep a promise she made to a young family to keep them in an aging emergency unit to spare them from houselessness. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson says a Paulatuk family with a young baby is at risk of being displaced from a housing unit that Housing Minister Paulie Chinna promised to secure for them during her tour of the community last year. 

Jacobson said the family has fundraised to purchase a stove — in case they are removed from their unit — which they've been living in on an emergency basis since last November.

"They have nowhere to go," Jacobson said. "They're going to go to a tent frame with a fuel stove in it and they have a young baby. It's really disheartening."

Jacobson believes the new occupant is a staff person with the housing corporation. He said that a staff person could be put up in a hotel instead of displacing a local family. 

"These are local people that have been born and raised in that community. [They're] being evicted because there's an outsider coming into the unit," said Jacobson.

The family in question declined to comment on their situation. 

Ministerial promise

Housing Minister Paulie Chinna declined to speak about the family's situation and did not provide any response to questions about rules for removing people from units. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Jacobson said that Chinna promised the housing corporation would work to keep the family in the unit during a tour of the community last year.

Through a spokesperson Chinna declined multiple requests for an interview or comment on the situation saying "it would not be appropriate … to talk about individual client files."

But Jacobson said the minister is going back on her word. 

"I have all the respect for my minister, but when you say something, you've got to follow through," he said.

No active evictions

Lorna Neal, manager of the Paulatuk Housing Association, declined to comment on the family's situation, but said that there were no active evictions in the community.

The CBC also reached out to Housing NWT, which did not deliver a response to CBC's questions.

Neal said that out of Paulatuk's 66 units, 53 are in active use as public housing or with rent geared to income. 

The authority places people in houses according to a point-based waiting list. It weighs factors such as severe disability and how long a person has been on the waiting list. 

There are around 20 families waiting for homes, and some families need larger units, Neal said.

"We have a lot of families that are very overcrowded in two-bedrooms," she said, giving the example of a family of six living in a small two-bedroom house.

One family is waiting for a three-bedroom house, nine families are waiting for a two-bed unit, and nine people are waiting for a one-bedroom, Neal said.

New build delayed by barge cancellation

A cancelled barge delivery set back multi-year construction in a community that relies on shipped construction materials and has limited storage capability. (NTCL)

Jacobson said small communities in the N.W.T. are "screaming" for housing and that the N.W.T. is tens of millions of dollars short of the funding needed.

He said that even with federal commitments, the territory can not spend the money fast enough and spends too little of its own budget on housing.

The community has a fourplex nearing completion and it will have three three-bedroom units and a one-bedroom unit. Work can continue on the fourplex as temperatures warm.

This will allow the local housing authority to move some of the eight families living with "extreme overcrowding" out of their two-bedroom units into something more suitable. 

According to the local housing manager, the fourplex was delayed after severe ice halted barge deliveries to coastal communities like Paulatuk, resulting in setbacks for the multi-year building schedule.

Constructing units in the community is already challenging because there are minimal storage facilities in the community, the manager said.

The new fourplex will add to the housing stock in the community of about 265 people. For now, the community makes do with four bachelor units; four 1-bedroom units for people 60 and older; 28 two-bedroom units; 15 three-bedroom units; two four-bedroom units; and one five-bedroom unit. 

With files from Sidney Cohen