More funding is required to acquire more houses and units in order to reduce the growing numbers on the public housing waitlist, NWT Housing Corporation president and CEO Tom Williams told those at the 2019 Northern Housing Summit in Inuvik on April 23 to 24.
The waitlist is currently 900 people across the NWT.
“The biggest challenge we have is lack of supply. They say money isn’t the answer, but in terms of housing, it is,” said Williams. “More dollars because the cost of delivery in the North is higher than other jurisdictions. We have transportation challenges, we have challenges on delivery and getting contractors.”
During a panel discussion on Indigenous housing, Nihtat Gwich’in Council president Jozef Carnogursky touched on this issue and pointed out how 102 residents in Inuvik are on that waiting list.
“Many of our members are living in some substandard housing and in sometimes very overcrowded conditions. We also know that there are people who have been on the housing list for years, waiting to get houses,” said Carnogursky. “In the meantime, we have people living under buildings and in shelters.”
The highest number of registered individuals waiting for access to public housing in the NWT was in Yellowknife, with 294 people, followed by Behchoko, with 128, and then Inuvik, with 102.
Housing minister and Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Alfred Moses said that by having a housing summit, he hopes to address concerns such as the waitlist issue by collectively working with Indigenous governments across the North.
“This is an opportunity to bring everybody together. Meeting with the leadership, the chiefs, talking about how we do that,” said Moses. “It’s not us telling them, it’s them working with us to address the issue.”
This year’s summit was the first of its kind to be held in over 10 years, according to Moses.
“This is the first time that we’ve had a conference where we brought all the leadership across the NWT, Nunavut and Yukon together, as well as industry, people from the south and the Government of Canada to talk about how we develop these solutions,” said Moses.
A number of different topics were also explored during the two-day conference, such as housing support initiatives, trade-worker strategies, green energy solutions and more.
“We want to let the federal government know that these issues still remain and we’re trying to find innovative and unique ways to address them,” said Moses. “We want to try to bring them up here to see our successes, but see some of the challenge that we’re dealing with.”
Thanks to the conference, Williams added that there now exists an appetite amongst leaders across the North to band together and work in strong partnership.
“We have to have one voice. If we go down to Ottawa and try to secure additional funding, we’ll have one voice,” said Williams. “It will be loud voice, rather than having every group do it on their own.”