As federal MPs probe the impact of the housing shortage on Indigenous communities, the NWT’s housing minister is calling for more federal housing funding and greater flexibility in how that money is spent.

“In my role as minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, and also minister responsible for homelessness, I see the effects of the housing shortage on Indigenous people in the North every day, whether this is looking at the long waiting list for public housing in most small communities, or meeting under-housed people on the streets of Yellowknife.” said Paulie Chinna on March 22 during a hearing of the federal Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs related to the impacts of the housing shortage on Indigenous communities.

The Northwest Territories, Chinna said, is more dependent on public housing than any other Canadian jurisdiction except Nunavut.

“We continue to work with Indigenous governments, communities and other partners to address these impacts through actions as implementations of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, but there’s no quick fix,” she told the committee.

Northern communities, Chinna said, face special barriers to solving their housing problems, including the high cost of building in the North and the high cost of heating. A lack of economic opportunities also fuels the need for public housing.

A report published in June 2021 by the NWT’s Standing Committee on Social Development found that 43 per cent of residences in the NWT had a least one significant problem. The territory’s smaller communities suffer the brunt of these problems. The report also found that in the 29 smaller NWT communities, 50 to 77 per cent of homes were in need of major repairs.

The NWT Housing Corporation owns 2,800 subsidized units and 390 affordable and market rental units.

If the NWT is to overcome its chronic housing shortage, it will take “sustained multi-year capital funding to increase the stock of new public housing in our territory,” Chinna said. The territory would also need the flexibility to determine its own priorities when using this funding, she added.

NNSL Media contacted the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation with questions about its funding of public housing in the Northwest Territories, but did not receive answers in time for publication.

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