The Torngat Regional Housing Association is giving away 300 homes to the tenants currently living in them, citing the decision as the fairest way to remove itself from managing social housing on Labrador's north coast after the Nunatsiavut government began developing its own semi-independent housing commission instead of further funding the independent Torngat housing.
The TRHA has been managing housing in the region since 1983. Each year it would receive $2 million in funding from the Nunatsiavut government to build, maintain and allocate affordable housing.
In a media release Friday, the TRHA said it was notified in 2018 by the Nunatsiavut government that funding would no longer be available after 2020, and once its own commission came online.
TRHA said the Nunatsiavut government agreed to extend its funding contribution to 2022.
Applicants who receive homes pay $100 a month in mortgage payments. After 25 years, they own the house.
The Nunatsiavut government says it was blindsided by the TRHA decision, and officials still aren't sure why those public assets will be signed over to private beneficiaries.
"We were not aware that this was the direction that Torngat wanted to take. We were surprised to see this announcement, we have been engaged in conversations with Torngat within the last year to talk about the impacts of the Nunatsiavut Housing Commission, and potentially how the Nunatsiavut Housing Commission can maybe take over the assets," Tyler Edmunds, first minister of the Nunatsiavut government told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.
In its own media release, the Nunatsiavut government said, "In March of 2019, the Nunatsiavut Assembly enacted legislation to govern all housing development and programs within the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area. The legislation also allows for the establishment of a Nunatsiavut Housing Commission, semi-independent of the Nunatsiavut government, as the preferred institution for housing delivery."
But the TRHA said it had given ample opportunity for the Nunatsiavut government to weigh in, before any decision was made.
"TRHA did invite NG to discuss options of dispersing assets and made several attempts to engage NG regarding decisions for closure. To date, NG has not requested or suggested a course of action concerning these assets," a media release reads.
Edmunds said he's not sure of the implications of the TRHA decision, adding it could be perceived as a good call, but a lot of homes are in play now owned by individuals and there's a concern for the delivery of social housing in Nunatsiavut communities.
"There's a big housing crisis and a big housing need, could any potential dollars that are invested in this now, could they have been better utilized more homes for families in need? I don't know," said Edmunds.
"There's questions that we want answered from Torngat, and it is difficult to forecast. But it is a very big decision and we should have been engaged."
According to TRHA Chairperson Margaret Fox, the THRA shares Edmunds' concerns over what the future holds for social housing in Labrador. She said although it is unfortunate the group is moving away from managing social housing, they wish government luck in the delivery of affordable housing.
"This is an important day for Nunatsiavut and I congratulate all new homeowners," she said in a news release. "I would also like to reassure everyone that TRHA stands by the decision to give new ownership of these homes and land to the individuals we have endeavored to help."