This is page numbers 1443 - 1480 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was housing.

Topics

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Steve Norn

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today, I am going to talk about the need for more assistance regarding home-ownership opportunities for residents of the NWT. Mr. Speaker, in the coming days, many of our residents are going to see an influx of money from class action law suits. The Indian Day School and Sixties Scoop survivors in our communities will see a one-time payment to them. I won't tell our residents how all they should spend their money, but they have told me they will look at home ownership. I would like to explore ways to assist them.

Mr. Speaker, there are some barriers I have seen when it comes to home ownership in the North. I believe we must expand on these services offered to our residents. One barrier is the massive amount of arrears that we are seeing at the local housing authority level. We often see assessing of people's incomes to pay for rent arrears. The GNWT needs to address the way assessments are done to account for fluctuations of income. Many of my constituents have different levels of income on any given day, depending on seasonal work and short-term contracts.

Other barriers, Mr. Speaker, include the inability to buy land or homes on certain lands, an inability to get home insurance, and government programs which require land tenure before any work gets completed. This is a huge problem in my riding in particular where a program such as the CARE program is inaccessible to people who are unable to buy the land on which the home sits. At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, I think we all want to see our residents invest in themselves to get away from this, being perpetually dependent on public housing rent, and move towards being home owners wherever they can. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Homelessness
Members' Statements

Page 1449

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Homelessness is not something new, but when I was growing up, I did not see it in my community. What I see now are elders to youth homeless. One thing that I do remember is: there were people who lived out on the land who did come to town. There were people who had a home in town and had a home on the land. Then there were people who lived just on the outskirts of town in my community, in tents. To me, that was their home.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has committed to development of an NWT-wide homelessness strategy. Through this strategy, the NWT Housing Corporation has committed to working with the NWT, federal, and Indigenous partners to increase policy and program alignment and to support the work of community members who provide our much-needed, front-line programming.

Mr. Speaker, we know mental health and addictions are common factors that lead to and keep people homeless. In the NWT, we have two shelter programs that we could consider a public health response to addressing homelessness and addictions, the Yellowknife day shelter and sobering centre and the Inuvik Warming Centre.

Mr. Speaker, the delivery of homelessness programming is hard work that requires attention and support from our social envelope GNWT departments. I would like to raise the attention of the Inuvik Warming Centre in my community, which is struggling to provide this valuable programming. They need support. They need assistance to develop a program plan with trained staff, board training, programming management. Mr. Speaker, they need support to secure a permanent location to offer this programming. Without this program in our community, we know people are in danger of dying. People experiencing homelessness have died in my community. This was the reason the shelter was developed. I would also like to thank all of those in my community who have been volunteering and putting their time in and their heart into the Inuvik Warming Centre over the past year, since its creation. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for Homelessness. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Homelessness
Members' Statements

Page 1449

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Homelessness and Housing
Members' Statements

Page 1450

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was glad to hear both of the Minister's statements today on housing and my colleagues' statements on housing. I am confident this is a shared priority for all Members of this House. However, it's going to take significant community or political will to accomplish this, Mr. Speaker. I am glad to hear we are making community housing plans for all 33 communities. However, I want to note that Yellowknife already has a 10-year plan to end homelessness. It was federally funded. It was fully researched, and it's costed. We need $140 million to end homelessness. We can make more plans, and we can talk more, but at the end of the day, this is going to take money.

Mr. Speaker, there are plenty of federal pools out there. However, we need to assist organizations, we need to assist community governments, and we need the NWT Housing Corporation to take the lead on getting that federal money. With the political will, we can end homelessness in this territory. I believe that federal funding is there.

However, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that far too often the NWT Housing Corporation is not a body committed to ending homelessness but is a landlord managing a portfolio. Mr. Speaker, this is one of the systemic problems we see. We need clear political leadership that goes to Ottawa with a plan that is costed and gets that money so we can truly move the dial on housing. Absent us doing it, it will not happen.

This territory saw two decades of economic prosperity as diamond mines opened, as thousands of jobs were created. Our economic forecast shows we are going to see 15,000 new jobs created as people start to retire.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of jobs, so much so that we are asking immigrants to fill them. However, our people cannot take those jobs unless they are housed, and it requires government action to end homelessness. We can grow and create more jobs, but in that time period, we actually saw much of our housing fall into core need. We saw the Housing Corporation's portfolio age and not be maintained. During that time, homelessness actually increased because there was not significant government action to make this a priority. Mr. Speaker, this is a priority for this House. It requires a plan. It requires costing, and it requires us spending those dollars. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Homelessness and Housing
Members' Statements

Page 1450

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Members' Statements

Page 1450

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, the North is facing a serious housing crisis. Over 50 percent of housing in small communities require major repairs, overcrowding is common, even of more concern during a pandemic. Over 900 people are currently on the public housing wait list, and Yellowknife's greatest challenge is affordability. In 2018, the federal government launched a $41-billion National Housing Strategy, including a $60-million allocation for the NWT co-investment fund.

Mr. Speaker, two years later, none of this funding has been used. Potential partners are busy providing front-line service to NWT residents and cannot meet the administrative burdens of a demanding application process. The GNWT is fully aware of these capacity issues and cannot afford to play a passive role. It is not even enough for them to act as a facilitator. The Housing Corporation must become an advocate and assume responsibility for ensuring this funding is fully accessed by non-governmental organizations. Seeking partnerships, promoting project opportunities, and facilitating applications must be a priority for the Minister responsible.

There are dozens of creative opportunities to use the co-investment fund. There is a need for after-care housing and supportive programming across the NWT. The on-the-land wellness initiative funding promoted by the Minister of Health and Social Services could be used for after-care supports. This is a perfect opportunity for Indigenous-owned and government-supported housing. In some NWT communities, teachers are living in schools where they teach. This, too, presents an opportunity for community-owned housing with guaranteed renters.

Mr. Speaker, the co-investment fund is not only for new construction. It can also be used for housing repair and renewal to develop energy-efficient, accessible, and socially inclusive housing. In the constituency I serve, there are two housing co-ops.

I am proud that Kam Lake's Borealis Co-op submitted an application for co-investment funding to retrofit their units. The federal government approved the Borealis application from the main National Housing Strategy funding pot, meaning that our $60-million allocation remains unsubscribed.

The Housing Corporation must provide a well-structured, -supported, and -communicated co-investment fund process with a creative and empowered leader.

In February, the Minister responsible advised this House that they would be hiring such a person. Increasing access to affordable homes and reducing core need is a mandate of this Assembly. It will be this government's failure if the Northwest Territories misses out on the opportunities this funding presents to address our long housing crisis, and that would be a Northern travesty, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Members' Statements

Page 1450

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Member's statements. Member for Monfwi.

Housing Needs in Monfwi
Members' Statements

October 28th, 2020

Page 1451

Jackson Lafferty

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] Mr. Speaker, we are commenting on NWT Housing Corporation. When we take a look at other housing issues in the communities, we have a lot of problems. Sometimes, we live in small houses. Sometimes, we all live in mansions. We all treat everyone the same. Housing Corporation, the way they allocate houses, that policy needs to be changed. Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation ends]

The NWT Housing Corporation 2020-2021 project list, dated April 30, 2020. I was not impressed with it. In fact, I was very upset, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware that Behchoko is the largest Indigenous community in the Northwest Territories. Behchoko has always had the greatest need for housing out of all the communities in the territory, and it still does; in fact, Mr. Speaker, almost 50 percent of the households in the communities of Behchoko, Whati, Gameti, and Wekweeti, also, according to Housing Corporation's own data.

Mr. Speaker, 2014 NWT community survey, six years ago, there's a household and core need: Behchoko, 205; Gameti, 34; Wekweeti, 6; and Whati, 59 at that time; waiting list at Behchoko, 54. Mr. Speaker, this was six years ago. I'm sure today's numbers will be almost double or even more.

Mr. Speaker, half of the households in my region are struggling. Mr. Speaker, that's half of my region. The lack of safe, suitable, and affordable housing in the community has contributed to numerous issues and challenges in my communities. Unfortunately, I do not have time to get into details today. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for NWT housing Minister at the appropriate time. Masi.

Housing Needs in Monfwi
Members' Statements

Page 1451

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Eulogy of Perry Neis
Members' Statements

Page 1451

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At the time of Perry's birth, his parents were living in Fort Resolution. Although there was a hospital, there was no doctor at the time. Therefore, he had to be born in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, May of 1963. The journey back to Fort Resolution was a float plane from Fort Smith because the runway in Fort Resolution was out at the time.

The family left Fort Resolution in 1966 but returned to the NWT February of 1974 and settled in Hay River. Perry was a natural athlete and competed in many sports: hockey, softball, baseball, basketball, swimming, and track and field. Through sports, he formed strong bonds of friendship to remain true his whole life. He travelled to various places in the Northwest Territories and Canada as a member of teams representing NWT. Perry set an NWT record for high jump in 1978 that was still intact in 1987.

Following high school, Perry worked for the Hudson Bay Company as a manager trainee, and in 1982, he moved positions within the company at Lac La Biche. Opportunities for retail management opened up with him at Mark's Work Warehouse, which ultimately led him to Fort McMurray where he met his wife. Together, they raised three children, Matthew, Cole, and Rachel.

In 1989, Perry completed post-secondary studies in the information technology field and worked for Suncor Energy as an IT specialist. The company moved the family to Airdrie in 2011. Perry remained with Suncor until 2008 and started a new career path as a journeyman motorcycle mechanic, blending a passion for fixing things and mechanics.

Perry's love with sports carried on throughout his life. Hockey, a faithful Oiler fan and a proud member of the Fort McMurray Rugby Knights football team. He always found ways to support and involve in the interests of his family and children, coaching, supporting, and mentoring. He took great pride in his family and friends. People were important to Perry, his family and friends, co-workers to be sure, but even those newly met. He spoke so easily with people. Drawing from his life experience, remarkable memory, and sharp wit, he had a knack for connecting with people. He cherished the connection he made with people and found great joy in relating stories after stories of good times and adventures. He was loyal to a fault and always watching out for others, a genuine, honest man.

Perry was proud of being from the Northwest Territories. He loved the landscape, but mostly the people who became part of his life. He remained connected with his friends and throughout his life, not just through phone calls, emails, and comments, and messages on Facebook but by making the time to visit.

Perry made many trips back to the NWT to connect with old friends and seeing beloved sites. Among his fondest memory is taking the sled out onto the Great Slave and laying underneath the stars and watching the brilliance of the northern lights. Perry will be sadly missed by his friends and family. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Eulogy of Perry Neis
Members' Statements

Page 1452

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Item 6, acknowledgements. Item 7, oral questions. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Homelessness. What is the new homelessness strategy identified in terms of support for community-based service providers to operate and build capacity to deliver program, specifically to my community of Inuvik? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Minister responsible for Homelessness.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has created a number of homelessness initiatives throughout the Northwest Territories. Specifically, to the Member's riding, we do have a homelessness shelter, and we do have a warming shelter. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has funded that program annually of $600,000. Also, we are aware of the current circumstances with the homelessness initiatives in her riding. We will be sending Housing Corporation support to work with those non-profit organizations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Can the Minister tell me what partnership, if any, has the Minister identified through the strategy to help with these two areas in my community?

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Within the Member's riding, we do have partnerships with the Town of Inuvik, and we do work with local organizations, as well, to making sure that we do address this issue within her community. Homelessness has come very significant throughout the Northwest Territories, and the Housing Corporation is committed to be working with each of the communities throughout the territory to find solutions.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

The first question and the answer, I think I did hear that the Minister is going to be sending her staff up to Inuvik. One of my questions was: will she get a start on implementing the strategy by reaching out to the Inuvik warming shelter and help them to identify solutions to address their operational issues?

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

The Inuvik warming shelter has been involved in the strategy. We did not complete the final draft of the document that will be available to Members and also having the support staff going into the community to help the Inuvik warming shelter to work with the employees and the board that are there. That's a commitment from the Housing Corporation.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the Minister. It's wintertime. I was home this weekend. There's lot of snow. It's cold. I'm glad that the Minister is going to send her staff in and start working with my community as we can't afford to have the place shut down, and that was in the media. Just at the beginning of the month, the board was thinking of dissolving the society. Will the Minister also get started on building these partnerships to work with the department of health to identify mental health, addiction supports, and training for clients and staff within this facility? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Working with the homelessness initiative throughout the territory does work, and we do work in collaboration with other government departments. I also hold the portfolio as the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs. We do have NGO funding that is available for staff training, as well. I will follow up with the Member to provide further information. Also, we do work in conjunction with the department of health. I will follow up with the Member. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Nunakput.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I brought up Canadian North and the funding that they received for COVID-19. Do we have an agreement with the airlines in regard to the COVID-19 relief fund, how the money is spent? If we do, if the Minister could provide a few examples. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.