Longstanding issues with housing policies make it harder for NWT residents to own homes, especially in communities, according to MLA Kam Lake Caitlin Cleveland.
Cleveland said poor economic conditions and maintenance issues with public owned housing stock are making home ownership expensive, adding the NWT Housing Corporation needs to do more to incentivize home ownership.
“Housing challenges identified through federally designed programs in the 1950s are the same we hear about today,” Cleveland said in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. “There is little incentive towards home ownership due to actual perceived limited equity growth, limited resale options in smaller communities, high operating costs, and the need for community-based trades.”
Cleveland added the NWT Housing Corporation’s resemble national policies, which rely on a wage-based economy and private company building more housing, something that isn’t happening in a lot of NWT communities.
The NWT Housing Corporation has 321 mortgage files. Mortgage payments are on time for 103 of them, with 218 are in arrears.
While Housing Minister Paulie Chinna said there are a lot of mortgages under the NWT Housing Corporation’s portfolio that are under arrears, the corporation still maintains a collection rate of 90 percent. Chinna said she the plan is to maintain this high rate going forward.
Chinna added maintaining and covering the cost of utilities for the NWT Housing Corporation’s housing stock costs $62 million. That translates to $25,000 per unit per year.
Cleveland said those maintenance costs are a big off-putting factor for people looking to purchase public housing. She added there’s a lack of skilled trades people in communities to conduct repairs, and building supplies are costly.
In response to Cleveland’s remarks, Chinna said the territory is looking at improving access to building supplies so residents can save on maintenance costs for their homes.
Issues surrounding a lack of tradespeople to fix maintenance issues with public housing had been raised during the Legislative Assembly’s focused day on housing.
“Sometimes, recruitment is a challenge. We are stepping up in areas; we’re trying to get more exposure to the trades,” said NWTHC President Tom Williams. “One of the innovative things that we have undertaken is in our contracting process, where we have a line item in the contracts now that the contractor has to provide training opportunities and exposure for trades.”
“The Housing Corporation could be an excellent training ground to get exposure and get people interested and excited to be a tradesperson, so we are going to continue to step this up,” he added.
The NWT Housing Corporation’s policies are set to be reviewed as part of the GNWT’s government renewal process.