NWT public housing at tipping point

Without new funding from the federal government soon, the already-insufficient public housing stock in the Northwest Territories could diminish to an unmanageable level, according to a new report on the state of government-assisted housing released last Thursday afternoon in Yellowknife.

The report, "Government-Assisted Housing in the Northwest Territories and the Role of the Federal Government," was presented by Carleton University PhD candidate Nick Falvo and his research supervisor Dr. Frances Abele to the public at Yellowknife City Hall as part of a panel discussion in cooperation with the Centre for Northern Families.

The report states that high operating and construction costs coupled with rising demand from an increasingly poor population indicate the housing system, as it stands, is unsustainable without permanent financial assistance from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

"Yes, the federal government has announced funding in the past several years, but they've been one-off announcements," Falvo, the report's author, told The Journal in an interview from Yellowknife. "They've been for a limited number of units, they've been for a limited time, and then the government has stepped away."

Annual funding amounts from CMHC for housing in the NWT have begun to decline and will fully expire in 2038. Falvo's report indicates that rent paid by tenants (below 30 per cent of household income) combined with the current GNWT subsidy can sustain only half of the territory's public housing stock, which is already seeing a waiting list of 400 households.

"Look, if you've got the sunsetting of these operating agreements that will be completely expired by 2038, one-off announcements aren't going to cut it," said Falvo. "So we make the point that it's important for the federal government to announce a permanent re-entry into social housing and establish a plan for a permanent response to those expiring operating agreements."

Falvo said requesting more money from the territorial government is not really an option. At $1,672 per capita, the GNWT spends 25 times as much on housing for its population than the average Canadian province, which spends $61 per capita, the report found.

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Publication Date: 
November 29, 2011
Journal Name: 
Slave River Journal
NT, Canada