Nunavut's housing corp. asks industry for help with housing crisis

The Nunavut Housing Corporation is making a plea to industry to get involved in helping fix the territory's housing crisis.

Nunavut has faced housing shortages for years, and is experiencing an influx of overcrowding and families living in makeshift homes like tents and sheds.

In 2017, the federal government earmarked $24 million annually to help build new housing stock in the territory — allowing for new builds at a rate that would take over 60 years to construct the thousands of homes needed, according to Terry Audla, the housing corporation's president.

To help search for solutions, the housing corporation held a roundtable with industry stakeholders on Tuesday at the Nunavut Trade Show, asking how it could make building housing in the territory a feasible investment opportunity.

"We developed on a [territorial government]-wide basis a blueprint for housing in Nunavut and as part of those actions, one is specific to engaging industry," said Audla. "Industry that's responsible in the construction or maintenance of housing, and this is the first engagement of industry towards improving housing in Nunavut."

Travis Burke/CBC

Several problems were identified during the roundtable, including how construction and shipping costs can be prohibitive in communities. A representative from contractor GC North Construction, pointed out that while it costs nearly $1 million to build a four-bedroom home in any community besides Iqaluit, people are only willing to spend about $400,000.

A potential solution, he said, would be to find people in communities who wanted to own homes and help put them in a co-op, allowing for a financial commitment that would make the project more viable for construction partners.

Other suggestions at the meeting included a rent-to-own policy for public housing, and introducing more energy efficient technology, such as LED lighting, to minimize utility costs.

While the meeting was short — only lasting 90 minutes — Audla said it was productive and that it is just the first of several consultations with industry as the housing corporation attempts to find solutions to the territory's housing woes.

"We hope to continue and to do it on a more regular basis," he said.

With files from Sara Frizzell