Lightstone demands to know Inuit home-ownership numbers; seeks improvements to program

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The Nunavut Housing Corporation has provided home-ownership program funding to 1,000 applicants over the past three years, but the corporation’s minister cannot specify how many of those applicants were Inuit.

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone: No incentive to move out of subsidized housing to take on a mortgage. photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

In the legislative assembly on Feb. 28, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone insisted that he wants to know how the figures break down between Inuit and non-Inuit, in a territory that has “become reliant on subsidized housing.”

Housing Minister Patterk Netser responded, “When an applicant comes forward to the Nunavut Housing Corporation, we don’t look at whether they’re Inuit or non-Inuit.”

Lightstone asked whether it would be possible to adjust the eligibility criteria for home-ownership programs to encourage more Inuit to access this funding. He noted that there’s not much of an existing incentive for Nunavummiut to take on a mortgage if they’re currently living in subsidized housing.

Netser noted that the Housing Corporation is still in the process of completing a review that started in 2017. The results of that review will be forwarded to cabinet and cabinet will decide whether the information is made public, the minister added.

Later in the day, Lightstone pointed out that Nunavut has the lowest rate of home-ownership in Canada, at 20 per cent, and there has been a decline in that rate over the past decade.

“Most Inuit who are capable of owning a home are most likely government employees, and the Government of Nunavut’s $400 monthly household allowance is not adequate and must be adjusted” said Lightstone. “This is compounded by the absence of a housing market in the majority of communities, which is also a disincentive for prospective homeowners. Lastly, I fear that many Inuit do not have the financial knowledge to plan for purchasing and maintaining a house and that they are unfamiliar with the foreign acquisition process.”

He submitted written questions to be answered by the Housing Corporation specifying how its various home-ownership programs have been accessed and how they can be made more user-friendly.

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