This is page numbers 2439 - 2492 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

Housing Needs of Indigenous Peoples
Members' Statements

Page 2441

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Housing was identified as a priority for this government, and more importantly, it is a basic need that has a significant impact on one's quality of life and one's future. This government, with all its good intentions, has made minimal progress over the last several decades on meeting the housing needs of Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories. This failure has contributed to disadvantaging Indigenous Peoples in areas such as education, employment, and health. The lack of a home contributes to this while taking away one's ability to make choices, such as children being prepared for school in the morning, parents participating in the workforce, and the dream of starting or raising a family.

What we take for granted when it comes to housing, there are many in the Northwest Territories who would welcome our support to just find basic housing for them. With those seeking public housing because there are no other options, it troubles me when I have to tell them that there is no housing available and that this government has no plans to substantially increase public housing units in the Northwest Territories. The department talks about suitability, adequacy, and affordability; nowhere do they talk about the actual of number units required to house those on long waiting lists throughout the NWT and how they plan to rectify the situation.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation exists for a reason. Their responsibilities include the provision to provide, develop, maintain, and manage housing for senior citizens, families, individuals, disabled persons, and the homeless. I have noticed that inaction in all those areas has become an escalating problem when it comes to the NWT Housing Corporation meeting those provisions. With all the money received from the federal government, we still cannot get it right.

Mr. Speaker, I can go on and say what we all know when it comes to the failure of this government in addressing the housing crisis in the Northwest Territories. The Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and her senior bureaucrats do not seem to grasp that a housing crisis exists, and I am not sure why that is. If the Minister is the problem, then I would ask the Premier for a Cabinet shuffle. If it is the senior bureaucrats who are the problem, then I would ask the Premier to make a change at that level. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Housing Needs of Indigenous Peoples
Members' Statements

Page 2441

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Seniors' Housing Needs
Members' Statements

Page 2441

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I'm going to expand on a topic that I spoke about last week in relation to the NWT Housing Corporation which is the need for a new policy change for housing seniors in the NWT. Mr. Speaker, last week, I asked the Minister of the NWT Housing Corporation if her department would consider creating a seniors housing strategy for public housing. She would not commit to doing so but said she would bring the idea to her department. The Minister's answer wasn't a yes but it wasn't a hard no either. I consider that a good start. Here are some points to help the Minister to decide yes.

First, Mr. Speaker, the population of seniors is the fastest growing population sector in the territory. According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, between 2003 and 2018, the population of people aged 60 years and over increased by 115 percent. In raw numbers, this data represents an increase of seniors in the NWT by 3,194, meaning, in 15 years, we're more than double the senior population in the NWT. In comparison, the total population of the NWT increased by only 5 percent over the same period. The proportion of seniors is projected to increase to at least 20 percent of the total of the NWT population by 2035.

Mr. Speaker, a second reason that the Minister should consider a new seniors housing policy is the need to take into account the unique and sometimes complex needs of seniors. Right now, anyone, whether senior or otherwise, who apply for public housing is also considered based on their level of income. This policy is narrow-minded and discriminatory for seniors as there are other factors to consider which impacts their living situations. As I said before, we need to consider the age, level of mobility, and any dependents that seniors may have.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I don't think seniors should continue to be into the same general pool of people who are looking for public housing. Based on the increased number of seniors, I think we need to consider putting seniors into their own pool of individuals seeking public housing. I think we also need to consider creating an average medium rental amount that we charge seniors for public housing.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, we can't be turning away because of their monthly pensions or Old Age Security payments. We have to get realistic about how we house seniors in the NWT. We need neutral housing policies to help house as many seniors as we can. I will have questions for the Minister of Housing later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Seniors' Housing Needs
Members' Statements

Page 2441

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Member statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Housing Wait Lists
Members' Statements

Page 2441

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm having deja vu today. Last year, on this exact day in this House, I spoke to the issues around housing wait lists and the struggle to access private market housing while waiting for housing.

Mr. Speaker, in Inuvik, last year, in my Member's statement, I also stated that the wait lists for the Inuvik housing authority had 80 for one bedroom, 90 for two bedrooms, 10 people for three bedrooms. Most recently, just last month, I got an email from the Minister's office with a little bit of good news saying 57 people for one bedroom, 18 for two bedroom, two for a three-bedroom, and one for a four-bedroom. There has been some movement on these lists, and the numbers have gone which is good news. The email also mentioned that there will be tear down of old units of my community, and the new units to be built will be configured to address the most urgent needs of the waiting list. While this is good news in theory, Mr. Speaker, when will we ever see these units as we don't seem to see this as an urgent need being addressed to get units on the ground and in motion other than RCMP units that have no impact to the community residents?

Mr. Speaker, another concern is that we are replacing old units but not adding more units to our housing stock, so how will we ever overcome any of our social issues if we can't even get our residents the basic needs of housing. The residents of the NWT want housing. Does the Minister and her staff hear us? If so, can they act? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Housing Wait Lists
Members' Statements

Page 2441

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Housing Issues in Great Slave
Members' Statements

Page 2441

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As an MLA, one of the things I've heard most from my constituents about is housing. Not only does my community border downtown Yellowknife with its growing social issues, but there are also several apartment buildings in the district that are home to residents on income security as well as NWT housing clients. When I began to campaign for MLA, I visited these buildings to knock on doors and became concerned at the state of their disrepair. It was apparent that regular maintenance was not occurring, and I saw many safety issues.

Over the following year, I've heard from constituents about several of their housing issues including energized parking stalls that don't work, leading to vehicle freeze ups and major mechanical damage; and a lack of snow clearing at buildings, causing treacherous conditions and many occurrences of residents falling leading to injury. Lights are burnt out and locks are broken creating issues with security and a high level of reported criminal activity and trespassing. Many times, the landlord is contacted with no reply, leaving residents no option but to vent on social media in hopes of affecting change. Generally, these pleas fall on deaf ears, not surprising given the large percentage of apartment buildings owned by southern real estate firms. These firms, or REITS, have a mandate to increase profits for their shareholders. This leads to a high turnover of renters in apartments as it is "good business" to have a certain percentage of new units for rent each year so you can increase the rent.

All of these conditions and a lack of housing options is causing a major social crisis in the North. Often units are badly in need of repair, with mould and other health concerns often not addressed by the southern-based owners; and when they are, there are no overflow housing units for temporary shelter while work is being done. Large families are in units that are not adequate for their size, and there is a major lack of single person units in the North.

Increasing the number of affordable homes and reducing core housing needs is one of the 22 priorities of this 19th Assembly, and I think all of us would agree it is likely the most important given the overwhelming need. If there is one legacy I hope we can leave as a collective group, it is to see this issue addressed during our time in office. Once people have a safe, healthy place to live, they will feel stable, and feeling stable is a key component of recovery and wellbeing. Until such a time when our residents feel safe and stable in their homes, we cannot progress on the myriad of other social issues facing us. Mr. Speaker, it is time we recognize that housing isn't just an infrastructure situation; it's a social one.

Housing Issues in Great Slave
Members' Statements

Page 2441

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Housing Partnerships
Members' Statements

Page 2441

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, NWT Housing Corporation has told us the solution to our northern housing problem is $0.5 billion or partnerships, and preferably both. With housing stocks that continues to age, a reluctance to increase housing stock, and the missing policy to guide and govern housing partnerships, we are at a metaphorical fork in the road and need to take action. We need to find new funding and operations options that pull us outside of the cyclical nature of northern housing solutions and explore collaborative partnerships for northern housing. Examples of successful public-private partnerships for public housing exist across Canada where a cooperative venture between the public and private sectors and Indigenous governments exist, to build on the expertise of each partner, and to share costs, revenues, and responsibilities.

To get there, Mr. Speaker, we need a foundation. Kelowna, B.C., adopted a healthy housing strategy that links human and public health, employment, and the general quality of life in the community. It identified eight roles for government in which, in addition to the visible management of direct funding and the construction and operation of non-market housing, included planning and regulation, advocacy, research, community development and education, and, finally, strategic partnership. Stakeholders for this policy work included builders, lenders, civil society, NGOs, academia, as well as key education, social wellness, and health departments. I strongly encourage the GNWT to develop a similarly inclusive partnership foundation developed with Indigenous leadership and northern business, and also includes internal policy collaboration between Lands, MACA, Health, Justice, ECE, and the Housing Corporation.

In October 2017, on World Habitat Day, the UN recognized that 1.6 billion people still live in inadequate housing. They pointed out that housing policy, addressing first the needs of the most vulnerable, especially women and youth, must be placed at the centre of its strategies to fight poverty and improve health and employment. To achieve the priorities of the 19th Assembly, we need to place affordable and accessible safe housing at the forefront. This work cannot be achieved in a silo, and the government cannot accomplish this alone.

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to the Minister for agreeing to review the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation mission statement. I now call on the corporation to establish the policy foundation to support the construction, maintenance, and success of housing partnerships within our northern communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Housing Partnerships
Members' Statements

Page 2442

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Land Tenure and Homeownership
Members' Statements

March 10th, 2021

Page 2442

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We all recognize that one of the biggest barriers to NWT housing is the lack of market. Home insurance, land tenure, and complicated home ownership schemes mean that it is hard for people to own their own homes. In many communities, a house is not an investment, but a liability. Mr. Speaker, one of the things we must do to build more market housing and to get more people into home ownership is increase the use of fee simple tenure. A great place to start with this, Mr. Speaker, is the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation owning their housing units.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, this is something that they have been trying to do for a number of years. Yet, presently, the Department of Lands makes it very difficult for the Housing Corporation to own their own buildings in fee simple. If we want to be successful in promoting home ownership and in transferring units to people to actually own their houses, then we need to transfer all of the Housing Corporation's leases to them in fee simple title. Fee simple title is the foundation of any housing market. It allows people to get mortgages. It is the strongest property interest that any bank will support.

Mr. Speaker, we have a long history of a love of leases in the Northwest Territories. I get this is complicated, and it gets caught up in land tenure and land ownership debates. II want to give people their houses in fee simple. I want to give our residents their houses in fee simple, and the best place to start is with the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation allowing them to own their own units. I will have questions for the Minister of Lands about why we have not done this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Land Tenure and Homeownership
Members' Statements

Page 2442

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Eulogy for David Schindler
Members' Statements

Page 2442

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. A good friend and advocate for the North and nature, David William Schindler, passed away last week at the age of 80. David grew up in Minnesota and studied engineering and then biology in the US before completing his doctorate at Oxford in 1966. Later that year, he moved to Canada to serve at Trent University before becoming the founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area project near Kenora, Ontario, in 1968. His 10 years there were filled with real-life experiments of adding different chemicals to small lakes to solve real-world problems, such as the dying Great Lakes and acid rain. This research was revolutionary in terms of our understanding of aquatic ecosystems.

In 1989, University of Alberta offered both David and his wife, Suzanne, positions, and he became the Killam Memorial Chair and Professor of Ecology. That same year, he was named to the Alberta Pacific Review Panel to study a proposed pulp mill on the Athabasca River. Cindy Kenny-Gilday sat on that panel for the Northwest Territories, and Jim Boucher, Chief of the Fort McKay First Nation, was also on the panel. They did their best to protect the North. Eventually, the mill went ahead but with new technology that was less harmful to the environment. At the University of Alberta, Schindler continued his water research. He warned about the environmental impact of how "the combination of climate warming, increases in human populations and industry, and historic drought is likely to cause an unprecedented water crisis" in the Prairie provinces.

In 1996, he appeared as an expert witness during the review of Canada's first diamond mine. He next turned his attention to the environmental impacts of the tar sands on the Athabasca River watershed. David was always watching out for us, what was upstream of the Northwest Territories. During his 50-plus-years, he was awarded most of the planet's top environmental science prizes and held 13 academic or honorary degrees from universities around the world. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2004.

One of his best quotes is as follows: "I am looking forward to some day seeing things done right so that I can relax and just do science. That's where the fun is. It isn't in hassling with politicians and that, which is to me rather like playing chess with a gorilla. The game is boring, and you know you are going to win, but you have got to be prepared to duck once in a while when they get angry and take a swing at you." Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Eulogy for David Schindler
Members' Statements

Page 2442

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. 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 Hay River South.

Question 652-19(2): Changes at the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation
Oral Questions

Page 2442

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Housing for people in the NWT is a basic need that should be considered a right for all people in the NWT. To bring about real change and bold new ideas, I have but one question for the Premier: can she tell me and the people of the Northwest Territories, in order to address a growing housing crisis in the NWT, if she would commit to considering either a Cabinet shuffle or changing out senior bureaucrats in the NWT Housing Corporation? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.