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Housing report kept under wraps

Photo courtesy of Kira Epstein

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 28/03) - The Department of Education, Culture and Employment is not releasing the results of a housing survey conducted with teachers and administrators in February.

The department contracted Yellowknife firm Terriplan Consultants to look into the housing shortage for teachers in the NWT and its correlation to turnover rates.

Education officials have confirmed a report has been completed, but the survey and its results are being kept under wraps.

Sue Glowach, manager of public affairs for ECE, said it "wasn't to be released" to the public.

"The results probably are ready," she said, "but the document won't be released."

Glowach said the department would not be making any comments on the report and suggested the Financial Management Board Secretariat be contacted for comment on the government's position on housing.

Neither James Anderson, chair of the Beaufort Delta Education Council, nor NWT Teachers Association president David Murphy have been informed of the survey results.

The NWTTA also conducted an informal survey with its members about housing conditions, availability and affordability. Those results have not been compiled for release, said Murphy, but they do highlight concerns in several communities across the NWT.

After five days of intense negotiations, the NWTTA reached a tentative agreement earlier this month for the renewal of its collective agreement, which expires Aug. 31, with the territorial government.

But Murphy said housing was not, and could not, be discussed at the negotiating table because of prohibitions under the Public Services Act.

"So we cannot discuss it at the table specifically. But it is something that we do discuss with the employer and try to get them to understand three areas of concern we have for housing are, certainly, the cost, accessibility and conditions," he said.

In conversations with FMB secretary Lew Voytilla earlier this month, Murphy said he was informed that department is identifying which communities have a shortage of private rental units.

Potential solutions

"They told me that they want to look at potential solutions to make private rental housing accessible in communities where a shortage is identified.

"So there is a commitment for them to do that, and it's a commitment that we have had from them for a couple of years ... but not a whole lot has been done to alleviate (the shortage)," said Murphy.

Voytilla was out of town last week and could not be reached.

Fred Chambers, who is responsible for dealing with staff housing policy issues for FMBS, said he has seen a draft version of the survey, but it had not been finalized.

"I have seen it ... but it was just a survey that made comparisons of average rental rates in social housing and Northern Allowances provided to teachers, but I don't recall a whole lot more than that. It wasn't a particularly exhaustive thing. It was only a few pages long."

"There were no recommendations or anything like that in."

Chambers said Voytilla could have received a recommendation from ECE, but if he had the matter would then have been placed in Chambers' hands.

Chambers' main task is to "get rid of" the housing units still owned by the government. When the FMBS took over staff housing a few years ago, the GNWT owned more than 1,500 units.

Now the government owns only 15 or 16 units across the territory, all of which are up for sale or leased out to community groups.