With Labrador's lack of affordable housing, this couple is out of options — and almost out of time

·3 min read
Justine, left, and Martin Obed are pictured in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, one of the places where they're looking for affordable housing. (Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC - image credit)
Justine, left, and Martin Obed are pictured in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, one of the places where they're looking for affordable housing. (Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC - image credit)

When Justine and Martin Obed moved to Sheshatshiu in 2004, they never thought that they would one day be faced with the possibility of homelessness.

But since the spring, after their landlord decided to move into their long-time residence, the couple has been leaning on friends and family for places to stay. The Obeds, both of whom are 49, are house-sitting in Sheshatshiu until Aug. 10 — but that's as far as they have housing.

"I don't know where we're going to go from there. I don't know," Justine Obed told CBC News in a recent interview.

The couple has asked the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation for assistance but the Obeds say they don't qualify for NLHC housing because they made more than $32,500 last year.

Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC
Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC

The couple said the corporation might be able to secure a unit for them in Nain — the income threshold on the north coast is $65,000 — but they can't afford the high cost of living in Labrador's coastal communities.

Ideally, the Obeds were hoping to find housing in North West River, Sheshatshiu or Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay has seven vacant units, but two of them are under repair by maintenance staff over the next weeks, while the rest require significant repairs. The corporation says it's seeking bids from contractors.

In North West River, there are three vacant units. Two of them are under repair, and the final unit was recently vacated and needs to be assessed for repairs. Sheshatshiu currently has no units operated by the NLHC.

The Obeds have also asked the Nunatsiavut Housing Commission for help, but a Nunatsiavut government representative said all the stock overseen by the commission is on Labrador's northern coast, where the Obeds can't afford to move.

Private market no comfort

With skyrocketing rental prices, the private market has provided no solace for the couple.

"We don't even bother looking. For a one-bedroom house, it goes for $1,200 to $1,500 a month," said Martin Obed.

Martin used to work at the only gas station in North West River, but he had to quit in mid-April when the landlord put in their notice to move in. The couple moved to a friend's house in Sheshatshiu, farther away from Martin's job, making walking to work difficult. He hopes to secure higher-paying work at the mines in Voisey's Bay but hasn't found anything yet. Justine has health problems that have prevented her from working, but she has applied for some jobs as well.

The couple are hoping for affordable housing so they no longer have to ask friends and family for help.

"Not once did I think we would be in this situation. Not once. I'm really scared of losing everything and everyone. I didn't know. We didn't know where else to turn. Who can help us? Who's out there that could help us?" said Justine Obed.

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