The housing crisis that is affecting the entire country looks a little different in Nunavut. It’s a vast territory that is different from many Canadian provinces: it is mostly populated by Indigenous people, and by one group: the Inuit. It is rapidly growing, with household sizes much larger than the Canadian average, which means there are many multi-generational homes. About two-thirds of homes are managed by the Nunavut Housing Corporation and staff housing programs, since it is challenging for private developers to build in the North. And it has one of the highest levels of core housing need in the country, mostly due to homes being unsuitable (too small for the household size) or inadequate (needing major repairs).
Igluliuqatigiingniq “Building houses together” (Nunavut 3000) is a strategy that aims to increase the housing supply by 3000 units by 2030. It was adopted in 2022 and aims to build out the housing continuum, including 300 emergency and transitional housing beds, 1,400 public housing units, 900 affordable rental and ownership units, and 400 market rental and ownership units.
I have been working with Nunavut Housing Corporation (CEO Eiryn Devereaux) and Silo Strategies (Winter Fedyk), with Nunavut experts Sandra Turner and Don Moors on the implementation of the strategy. This included creating a briefing note of the extensive community profiles for the 25 Nunavut communities, another covering all the program changes and new programs that are being submitted to Cabinet, and working on a research strategy to support this work. These folks, and the staff at the 25 local housing organizations in three regions across the territory are dedicated to meeting the goal of 3000 homes. They will do it together–with government, Inuit organizations (e.g. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, 3 Regional Inuit Associations), and industry stakeholders.
One thing I find quite unique about the strategy is the commitment to solve key challenges the entire housing sector is experiencing: the shortage of labour and supply chain issues. The government is working to build partnerships with industries such as modular housing manufacturers and energy-efficient building material developers to find innovative new ways to build housing that is resistant to permafrost degradation and has a lower impact on the environment. They are partnering with Inuit Arctic College to promote the skilled trades and recruit young people in high school to enter electrical, plumbing, carpentry and other trades that will be necessary to build the new units and keep them in good condition. The strategy aims to incorporates Inuit knowledge and perspectives, and build on that knowledge to support the community.
The government is also working with the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, NTI and Qulliq Energy Corporation to make sure community planning is done to prepare lots for new development and servicing, ensure community plans reflect sites for new development, data on each community is managed in a shared database. Other consultants, such as Chrystal Fuller (Brighter Community Planning--also based in Nova Scotia!) are working on this to ensure lands are ready. The Community Housing Transformation Centre is partnering with NHC to ensure growth of non-profits and co-operatives, which are just in their infancy in Nunavut, through the $1.3 M Nunalingni Piruqpaalirut Fund. Non-profits like Kitikmeot Friendship Society and Uquutaq Society have already been successful in delivering options for women fleeing violence and Elders–truly Inuit-run organizations serving their community.
It has been an honour to learn from northern housing experts on such an innovative and inspiring project. I think the rest of Canada should keep their eyes on this strategy and its implementation–it offers a lot of lessons for other jurisdictions.