Income check means seniors miss out on public housing: MLA

Lynn's Place
A shot of Lynn's Place, the NWT YWCA's own housing facility, which the organization is currently looking to expand. (Supplied by YWCA NWT.)
- Advertisement -

MLA for Thebacha Frieda Martselos says factors other than income should be considered when deciding whether seniors should be granted public housing, according to one MLA.

Martselos spoke in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, saying some seniors who may be above the income threshold for accessing public housing have other factors, like dependents, which mean they can’t actually afford housing.

“We need to re-evaluate how we help seniors find suitable housing for their situations,” she said. “It cannot be just about income. As I said last month, we need to consider something like a universal flat rate for all seniors in public housing.”

There are around 2,400 public housing units throughout the territory.

- Advertisement -

There were more than 900 people on the waitlist for public housing in 2019.

The cost of living in the NWT varies significantly between communities. 

The NWT Housing Corporation sets the Core Need Income Threshold (CNIT) for each community — which determines the amount of money a household would need to make to be able to rent or own a house on the private market.

Housing minister Paulie Chinna. (Photo by Bailey Moreton/100.1 True North FM.)

Housing is considered affordable when it costs below 30 per cent of a household’s monthly income to rent it, as long as it has enough bedrooms for the number of people living there.

The NWT Community Housing Needs Survey in 2004 found that 16 percent of all NWT households, around 2,260 households, were below the income threshold and in need of housing assistance.

- Advertisement -

That’s higher than the national average, which was at 14 percent based on 2001 Census data

However, if Yellowknife and the regional centres of Inuvik, Hay River, and Fort Smith are removed from the survey results, the remaining 30 smaller NWT communities have 30 percent of households in core need.

Minister Responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation Paulie Chinna pointed to the building of more senior housing and the lifting of the requirement for land tenure and insurance for private homeowners as helping meet seniors housing needs.

But Chinna wouldn’t commit to removing the Core Need Income Threshold for seniors, but said it is something she will discuss within her department. 

The thresholds are reviewed and updated every two years, with new CNITs set to be implemented April 1, 2021.

Chinna added she would like to see more creativity in meeting residents’ housing needs from the NWT Housing Corporation.

- Advertisement -