A new NWT Bureau of Statistics report paints a worrying picture of the state of housing across the NWT.

In 2019, 42.7 per cent (or 6,308) homes across the NWT had at least one housing problem, according to the report. This ranged from 30 per cent in Sachs Harbour, at the bottom end, to 90 per cent in Colville Lake at the top.

A house is considered to have a problem if it has an “affordability, adequacy or suitability issue,” according to a report on the state of the housing stock in the NWT.
This house lost its roof as winds gusted up to 120 km/h in Paulatuk on Jan. 14.
NNSL file photo

“A house is considered to have a housing problem if it has an affordability, adequacy or suitability issue,” stated the report.

An affordable house, according to the report’s criteria, is one in which less than 30 per cent of the household income is spent on housing costs. The measure of adequacy is whether it has running water and does not require major repairs. Suitability is whether it has the enough and appropriate bedrooms for its occupants.

In addition to managing public housing across the territory, the NWT Housing Corporation is tasked with providing housing assistance to homeowners. NWT Housing Corp. president and CEO Tom Williams said the agency is still reviewing the data associated with this report, and that these reports from the NWT Bureau of Statistics help it guide its operations.

Williams said the housing corporation only operates “seven or eight” public housing units in Colville Lake, the community that faced the most issues in this report, and that most homes there are privately owned.

In this situation, the housing corporation may be able to help with home repairs.

“Lots of times in the small communities there’s no hardware store or a lack of availability to get contractors to do the work, so a lot of these repairs on the homes are just not getting done,” said Williams. “So, one of the things that we were looking at in the new year is increasing programming in that area, where we may get our local housing organization to serve as a hardware store in the smaller communities to provide material which could be purchased.”

One of the corporation’s major programs to address housing issues across the territory right now is helping communities create community housing plans, which will serve to guide the Corp.’s investments, government policy, as well as assisting communities and individual investors.

“Whati will be the first one completed (in the coming weeks),” said Williams, “and that community was selected just because they had the all-weather road going in and there’s potential for growth in the community. The community, in the plan, will let us know what the immediate needs are and what are the longer term needs are, and every community has different needs and they have different solutions to meet those need.”

Williams said there are 15 community housing plans in various degrees of completion right now.

The community’s priorities will be backed, in the plans, with data about the state of housing in the community and relevant government programming.

Williams said Housing’s programs have been making a difference, despite the work left to be done.

“The NWT Housing Corporation has assisted nearly 4,000 households were housing programs over the past four years,” he said.

Those situations include building 100 new units, supplementing rent for 245 households, 626 instances of emergency repair support, 107 instances of helping seniors secure housing to age in their communities, as well as helping families get out of homelessness, major repair to privately owned homes, and supportive housing.”

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