Northern News Services
Monday, March 12, 2007
YELLOWKNIFE - Buried beneath the good news of $32 million in funding budgeted for 168 new housing units in the North is more than $13 million owed to the NWT Housing Corp. in outstanding rent and mortgage payments.
Rent and Mortgage Arrears by Region Courtesy of NWT Housing Corporation:
North Slave - $3,248,188
South Slave - 795,030
Nahendeh - 115,928
Sahtu - 766,163
Beaufort Delta - 1,397,629
Public housing rent arrears
Repayable mortgage arrears
North Slave - $1,963,698
South Slave - 1,862,293
Nahendeh - 1,043,829
Sahtu - 959,351
Beaufort Delta - 860,073
Since 1995, the number of people owing on their mortgage payments has climbed from 40 delinquent accounts worth $106,164 to more than $6.8 million in mortgage arrears belonging to 463 clients. Rent arrears from public housing clients surpassed $6.3 million this year.
"One of the goals of the 15th Assembly is the development of self-reliant people," said Twin Lakes MLA Robert McLeod during budget hearings in Committee of the Whole Feb. 12, in which he noted "immediate action" was necessary or the situation would become "unmanageable."
"By not taking remedial action with those who are behind in their mortgages, we are encouraging dependence and, worse, putting these people further and further into debt," McLeod added.
Premier Joe Handley, also minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, said 14 programs to encourage and better prepare for homeownership have been boiled down to four. Handley said arrangements to get delinquent accounts back on track would be done on a case-by-case basis.
"We can't just forgive (the debts), people have to pay them back if they have the means," said Handley, adding home ownership is a relatively new concept for people who only two or three generations ago went from living on the land to living in communities. "What we want is for people to be more self-reliant (and) too much government support isn't necessarily good."
While the mortgage arrears are a nearly $7 million bump on the road to self-reliance, Handley pointed to the homeownership success in Whati, where there is no public housing and all residences are owned independently.
"Home ownership is an aspiration among young people across Canada," he added.