Minister promises social housing
Minister commits funds to construction

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 18/99) - The cracks in Susan Spring's dogged optimism become visible when she's asked to comment on the latest department of housing press release that's on the table.

While intimately aware of the dire housing shortage across the territory, the long-time manager of the Iqaluit Housing Authority has trouble believing that, given the current economic climate in Nunavut, the territorial government will actually be able to locate the money to back up its latest promise. The government said it will construct new social housing units next summer.

"I'm a little skeptical. Why? I don't understand where the money is going to come from. Good luck in finding it," said Spring. She said the number of people in need of units has skyrocketed since the federal government pulled out of building social housing six years ago.

Housing Minister Manitok Thompson said she understands that skepticism but is going to build the promised units even though it means axing other needed home ownership and repair programs.

"That's my number one priority. That's where the urgent need is. That's what the MLAs asked for and to meet their demands, I have to look into my budget," said Thompson.

In an attempt to get the best bang for the government's housing bucks, the minister has struck a seven-person task force composed of four MLAs and three housing employees.

In the interests of efficiency and accuracy and to make sure the task force provides her with the answers by March -- in time to order the building materials for the 2000 sealift -- Thompson's staff has been compiling an updated list of people requiring housing in Nunavut.

Once the task force has that research in hand, it will be up to them to determine what kind of units to build, where to build them and to figure out how many units can be constructed given the number of dollars that can be squeezed out of other capital projects.

Thompson said she and Finance Minister Kelvin Ng planned to take the updated needs survey to the federal government to lobby for additional social housing dollars.