Calling for change
Housing task force tables 15 recommendations

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 01/00) - Developing a new rent scale and helping people buy their own homes are among the recommendations from a task force struck to come up with ways to address Nunavut's housing shortage.

Critics and supporters alike will spend the next several weeks debating the report, tabled in the Nunavut Legislature by Housing Minister Manitok Thompson last week.

The seven-member Nunavut Housing Task Force was assembled last year. Their report contains 15 recommendations that they and Thompson believe will address long-term housing issues.

Calling for the development of a new public housing rent scale, an overall review of the Nunavut Housing Corporation Act and for a needs analysis to be conducted, Thompson said she has already gone as far as setting dates when each of the recommendations would begin.

"We are going to start on them. I've already got start dates ... we will be starting this fall," said Thompson.

"We also have to do a five-year plan. We should be coming up with that this fall and that will implement all these things and other things the Housing Corporation should be doing," she said.

The five-year plan she referred to will also address ways of reducing the number of people currently waiting for public housing in the territory.

While tender calls have gone out to build the 100 new units that were announced last year, and with departmental plans to lease an additional 40 units for public housing tenants, Thompson said approximately 540 units were still needed.

One way she said she intended to address the large number was by encouraging and assisting residents with home ownership.

"We have put some money into home ownership, $1 million in a new program," said Thompson.

While final details are still being finalized, the ownership program will likely be similar to the GNWT's Minimum Downpayment Assistance Pilot Project. Designed to spark the stagnant housing market last year, MDAPP gave eligible Nunavut residents up to $15,000 to put towards a downpayment on a home.

"We're trying to get people to own their own homes who are able to," said Thompson.

"We need to help them out by giving them some downpayment assistance."

That's an idea that Iqaluit realtor John Matthews supports.

He said encouraging more Nunavummiut to become homeowners -- by assisting them with the often prohibitive downpayment -- would ultimately free up rental units and provide more space for social housing tenants.

"Most people who do buy have a unit they're renting," said Matthews, the owner of Atiilu Real Estate and Property Management.

"That's why home ownership is a very good program. By giving $10,000-$15,000, (Thompson) will allow someone to purchase a house, thereby freeing up a unit which could be used for public housing."