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Inuvik housing crunch

Shortage of available units "causing difficulties"

Kevin Wilson
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 13/01) - A housing shortage in Inuvik could have grave implications for health care delivery in both the Beaufort Delta and the Sahtu.

A delegation from the Inuvik Regional Health and Social Services Board told Inuvik's town council meeting last Wednesday that a local housing crunch is "causing difficulties" recruiting and retaining health care professionals.

"We cannot stress strongly enough the impact if we don't have an operating room," said Deborah McLeod, communications director for the board.

McLeod added that while the board is currently providing the level of services mandated by the government, "we can see (the time) coming," where the ability to provide that level of service would be strained.

Inuvik is booming as oil and gas exploration heats up again in the Beaufort Delta. Available housing has dried up as the population has grown, companies have converted some units into staff housing, and other units have been converted into hotel-type suites.

Mayor Peter Clarkson believes the town is in "a negative housing market," in which there are more people looking for accommodations than there are available units. Aurora College has also been affected by the crunch, recently putting out a tender for repairs to a group of residences it mothballed years ago.

Dr. Abraham de Klerk, chief of surgery at Inuvik Regional Hospital, says the situation is compounded by a lack of staff housing at health stations in the Sahtu.

"We're lucky at the moment that we have a full complement of doctors," said de Klerk.

Clarkson said that 85 new housing units are expected to come on stream by January. He also indicated he would try to "pull together" various groups, such as the GNWT, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Gwich'in Tribal Council, "to see what can be done.