Housing crisis looms
Solution to costs needed: Rankin manager

Rankin Inlet (May 01/00) - There must be change if public housing is to survive in Nunavut, says the housing manager of the Rankin Inlet Housing Association.

Darrin Nichol says many people don't realize the real cost to housing associations is the utility costs they have to pay.

Housing units and government office buildings are the only entities paying a full economic rate.

Nichol says he's not advocating that change, but suggests alternatives must be looked at.

"Homeowners and private businesses are paying a highly subsidized rate," says Nichol.

"Housing associations are paying a highly expensive rate for water, sewer and, to some extent, power.

"More than 50 per cent of our operating budget is being taken up paying for utilities."

More than half of Nunavut's population (52 per cent) lives in public housing.

Nichol says he's not implying business and homeowner rates should go up so public housing association's can go down.

However, given the shortage of public housing in Nunavut and the high expense of public housing portfolios, new ways of doing old business have to be figured out.

"We can't keep on operating the way we're operating today. It's not going to work," says Nichol.

In Rankin, public housing pays $75 per house for garbage pick up. Private homeowners pay $25.

Housing pays .042 cents per litre for municipal water. The private homeowner pays .0027 cents per litre.

Homeowners pay .0027 for government water, compared to .0071 for the housing associations.

"The housing program is full of hidden subsidies, with income support, water and sewer and the territorial power support programs all hinging one way or another on the Public Housing program.

"Hidden subsidies hide the true cost of doing business in the North."

Nichol says under current municipal, territorial and federal alignments, it's going to become impossible to deliver the existing public housing program without worrying about building more units for a growing population.

He says the current housing shortage is about to become a lot worse.

"The current situation is not a housing crisis, but there's a crisis coming.

"If you call it a crisis today, I don't know what you'd call it when the real impact hits.

"We have to get all the related players to the table and put mechanisms in place to deal with the problem.

"It can be done, but there's not a lot of time."