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Inukshuk housing exodus
17 co-op tenants to be relocated; resident says complex became unlivable

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, December 22, 2012

A tenant at Inukshuk Housing Co-op is calling the planned relocation of residents in 17 public housing units in the complex a "godsend," citing a plethora of maintenance issues that are making the homes unlivable.

NNSL photo/graphic

Seventeen public housing tenants at the Inukshuk Housing Co-op have been notified that the Yellowknife Housing Authority tends to move them out. - Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said she is distressed about the move because of emotional attachments after having lived in her home for 23 years, but maintenance upkeep at the co-op has deteriorated so badly in recent years.

The woman said maintenance problems include a lack of fresh air ventilation, freezing water pipes, and a tendency for her unit to get too cold. She said five or six years ago a neighbour's sewage pipe froze and caused sewage to seep into her unit.

“My neighbour's lines froze up and the sewage line was connected. Her sewage overflowed into my kitchen and it went all over the place,” she said.

“When I came home half of my living room was sopping wet. We are talking sewage here. They did not bother to call the proper people.”

She said co-op management replaced an underlying portion of the floor but didn't replace the carpeting.

Between now and July, people living in 17 subsidized housing units in the Inukshuk Housing Co-op will be relocated to various locations within the city, said Bob Bies, chief executive officer of the Yellowknife Housing Authority.

His organization is getting out of Inukshuk after an agreement after coming to a mutual agreement with the co-op, which owns the properties, and the NWT Housing Corporation, which mandates the level of public housing in NWT communities.

“We're transferring all of the tenants from Inukshuk into more suitable housing,” said Bies, adding that the housing authority has mandate to manage 292 units in Yellowknife but is currently over that number.

With 19 new units under construction on 53 Street, the Yellowknife Housing Authority is taking the opportunity to eliminate the 17 it manages at the Inukshuk co-op.

“So our inventory is too large and we have been instructed to reduce our inventory,” said Bies.

“At Inukshuk we were also having issues with maintenance so we thought that it was a good area that we could get out of.”

Bies acknowledged the public housing provider has been receiving a lot of calls for maintenance but because it doesn't own the property, it can't make the necessary fixes. The new units, however, will be owned by the housing authority.

Bies said the new 19-plex building, which consists entirely of two-bedroom units, will provide for most of the co-op tenants, although some will be moved to other places in the city. The 19-plex building include elevators and access ramps for people who are disabled and will open in April when residents will gradually begin moving out of Inukshuk.

Several letters were issued by the housing authority earlier this month to the 17 units holders, athough Bies couldn't say how many people this will effect offhand. He stressed that the move should not to be interpreted as an eviction and that the housing authority is doing everything it can to make the move easier for people, including packing up items, paying for the move, and making necessary modifications to the new units. In some cases with families, Bies said he is waiting until July to make it easier for kids.

“We knew people were going to be stressed out by this and we wanted to give as much notice as we could,” said Bies.

“We only ever do (moves like) this once in a blue moon. Normally, we do this if residents request a transfer. In this case it was a special situation where the co-op was saying they weren't happy with being in public housing anymore and we said we would look at other options. We have a new building coming, so it worked out.”

Earl Blacklock, president of the housing co-op's board of directors, said it had largely been a Yellowknife Housing Authority decision to get out of Inukshuk.

“As I understand it, the housing authority is oversubscribed and has more units than it needs, so they came to the agreement that they would clear (residents out of) Inukshuk,” said Blacklock.

Bies, from what he has heard, the co-op has “a long list” of applicants willing to pay market value and move in once the public housing tenants are gone.

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