Expanded home buyer assistance offered
Some obstacles remains, but help on the way

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 24/97) - A new plan to help Northerners buy their own homes was introduced last week in the legislative assembly.

Plan 2000 should result in better housing for 2,000 families over the next three years, according to a government press release.

"The aim is to move higher income families into their own homes, at monthly payments they can afford, said Joe Handley, president of the NWT Housing Corporation.

Under existing home ownership programs, the housing corporation purchases homes and provides mortgages to home owners.

But under the new arrangement, banks or other lenders will provide part of the financing.

However, Dick Bushey, executive director of the NWT Construction Association, believes the real need is for more affordable rental accommodations in northern communities.

"I think the solution would be what we've talked about here for years -- having government, non-profits and private sector developers do non-profit housing co-ops with financial support from the government to offset costs," Bushey said.

Bushey said multiple units of fourplexes or fiveplexes would be the most viable solution for the communities.

"We've also tried to encourage aboriginal organizations who've received land claim money to invest in their communities," Bushey added.

He said he believes there is little room for improvement usingn the existing system. "If you look at the stats, everyone who can afford to be a homeowner already has one," he said.

The federal government, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), still helps to maintain rental housing, but demand far exceeds supply. And more than 200 rental units are in immediate need of repairs or upgrading.

"Plan 2000 does not completely address our requirement for affordable housing," admits Goo Arlooktoo, the minister responsible for the housing corporation.

But he said he does expect it will have a positive impact on the communities.