Turned away
Six of seven hamlets refuse to take over housing

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 07/97) - With division and Nunavut approaching, many communities have been taking on many roles and responsibilities previously overseen by the territorial government.

But, as April 1 came and went last week, one responsibility that has been under tremendous scrutiny lately was left untouched by six of the seven Keewatin hamlets.

All communities except Chesterfield Inlet failed to meet the Housing Association transfer deadline.

"It's a no-go," Mayor John Hickes said last Tuesday in his office.

"If we can't improve on the situation currently there, then we'll just leave it alone."

The Hamlet of Rankin Inlet wanted to take over housing last October. But after close inspection of the association's books, councillors agreed it was not feasible for the hamlet to take it over and assume debts and unrecovered rents.

Hickes said there's no way the hamlet can meet the housing demands.

"Our accountant said thanks, but no thanks," Hickes said.

Territorial housing corporation president Joe Handley said most housing associations in the region are running with an operating debt between $200,000-$300,000.

"It's not an easy program to manage," said Handley. "There are tough parts to the jobs."

One of the reasons hamlets are not welcoming the transfer, Handley said, is because many communities don't think they can offer the program any better than the associations.

With such a big housing shortage in the North and the problems communities such as Rankin Inlet have had with evictions, it's no wonder they have elected to pass up the offer, he said.

Hamlets may also be worried about jobs losses in the community if the housing association were dissolved or they may be concerned about the added costs of water and sewage with housing.

Currently hamlets set water and sewage rates, which the associations have to pay.

Handley said the housing corporation will not force hamlets to take housing over but they are setting another transfer deadline for April 1, 1998.

"It's business as usual until then," he said.