Half of Canadian Nunavut Homes Overcrowded: Survey

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About half of Nunavut’s homes are overcrowded or need serious repair, while four per cent of the population does not have a permanent home, according to the territory’s first housing needs survey.

The survey, undertaken by Statistics Canada for the Nunavut Housing Corp., found 49 per cent of homes in Nunavut need major repairs and-or have two or more people living in each room.

Just over half of Nunavut’s occupied dwellings are public housing units managed by the housing corporation. The survey found 49 per cent of public housing dwellings are crowded, 26 per cent needed major repairs and 12 per cent needed both.

The median number of people in crowded homes is six, with 53 per cent of survey respondents saying they use the living room as a place to sleep.

A small proportion of people also said they have slept in kitchens, dining rooms or hallways, according to the survey.

‘Hidden homeless’

The survey also shows about 1,200 Nunavummiut — about four per cent of the territory’s population — are among the “hidden homeless,” meaning they do not have a permanent home and must bounce between different people’s homes and couches.

Overcrowded conditions in Nunavut homes are hurting youth, said Nattilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk, a social worker before she was elected to office earlier this year.

“Children sleeping in the living room, on the mattress, because they don’t have a bedroom; older brothers and sisters are common-lawing in the parents’ house — it does affect our children in Nunavut,” Ugyuk told CBC News on Friday, when the survey report was tabled in the legislature.

The Nunavut Housing Corp. launched the housing needs survey last year, teaming up with Statistics Canada and the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics to interview homeowners and renters in the territory’s 25 communities between November 2009 and June 2010.

“This survey is the most comprehensive attempt to date to capture the very serious housing needs of Nunavummiut,” Housing Minister Tagak Curley said in the legislature.

$110M shortfall

The housing corporation is on its way to building more than 1,000 new housing units at a cost of $410 million, $110 million more than budgeted.

That $110-million shortfall has been the subject of fierce debate in the legislature in recent weeks, with MLAs like Ron Elliott suggesting the money could have been used to build new houses.

“We should actually, in essence, have an extra 286 housing units,” said Elliott, who represents Nunavut’s High Arctic communities.

Curley said a recent audit of the Nunavut Housing Corp. has identified bad budgeting from 2006 as a factor behind the shortfall.

On Friday, Curley said MLAs’ repeated questions about the housing corporation’s financial problems are damaging morale and distracting officials from conducting the business of building new homes.

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