Northwest Territories: Housing groups call for state of emergency for Indigenous people

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Two national housing groups are asking the Northwest Territories to declare a housing emergency for Indigenous peoples, especially women and girls.

The National Indigenous Housing Network and Women’s National Housing and Homeless Network say the territorial housing agency, Housing NWT, is disappointing indigenous peoples in the north.

“We are literally in a housing emergency,” said housing advocate Lisa Thurber on behalf of the group.

She said she could not move the client to the Yellowknife hotel because there were no vacancies.

“These tenants are literally in tears,” she said. “The biggest complaint is that it’s ‘cold.’ We live in the Northwest Territories because of Pete and it’s cold most of the winter. So what are we doing about it?

Thurber, who recently formed the Territory Tenants Association, said the NWT’s housing problems are well documented.

Richard Egerikon, a member of the Territorial Council, submitted a photo in October showing an insect infestation in a public housing complex in Lankey Court, Yellowknife.

Last month, several other MPs also expressed concern about public housing, citing problems such as mold, vermin infestations, sewage leaks, broken windows, inadequate heating, high rents and delinquencies. .

“The root of the problem is this government’s inability or unwillingness to provide enough housing for all its residents,” Kevin O’Reilly told Congress. “Housing is not a priority for this government as we continue to travel to Ottawa for mega-projects over housing.”

Congressman Caitlin Cleveland has since expressed concern that Housing NWT is not collecting data on the gender and ethnicity of people living in public housing, or on those experiencing homelessness across the region.

Beyond public housing, the 2021 Census found that just over 13% of NWT households need core housing. That is, their housing did not meet at least one of the criteria of adequacy, affordability or suitability. 312 of him experienced homelessness.

Housing NWT works with local housing and community organisations, responsible for over 2,400 public housing across the region. It also offers a variety of public and market housing programs and services, including rent subsidies, homeless assistance funds, and homebuying programs.

The two housing networks are demanding that Housing NWT release control over housing units and that a group of Indigenous Advisors throughout the region oversee its decisions.

They also call for the dissolution of the Housing Authority, saying indigenous governments and organizations are best positioned to address the housing crisis in the region.

“We have a plan. We’re not just declaring a state of emergency and saying, ‘Do something,'” Thurber said, adding that the plan includes the people who need the most help. It included purchasing 70 off-grid homes to help those in need, he added.

“I hope there will be more housing,” she said. “I’d like to see a convoy of trucks drive into this house.”

Several indigenous groups in the territory are already working to take over control of the housing.

The Dene Nation passed a resolution to do so in 2019, saying the king had not fulfilled its obligation to provide quality housing to its citizens. In May 2022, the federal government announced to the Dene Nation that over three years he would provide $600,000 to establish a housing and infrastructure secretariat, and $135,000 to build K’aÌtl’odeeche First Nation’s modular units. announced that it will be offered for purchase.

Also in 2019, Dean First Nation of Yellowknife announced plans to create a community-led housing strategy to manage housing in Detta and Ndiro.

At Fort Good Hope, in 2020, the Kasho Gotineh Housing Society took over management of housing maintenance and repairs from the NWT Housing Authority.

Polly Chinna, the minister in charge of the territory’s housing authority, said in a statement that a state of emergency is usually declared during a natural disaster, civil unrest, armed conflict, or a medical pandemic, so governments normally allow He said that it will be possible to implement policies that are not allowed. do.

Housing The NWT is tackling the territory’s housing crisis by changing policies and programs and working with local communities and indigenous governments, Chinna said.

“Meeting the Territory’s housing needs is greater than any single government or organization, and the Northwest Territories government works with Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, Canadian governments, community governments and other stakeholders. territorial housing goals.

Housing NWT has a multi-year capital plan underway, which includes the supply of 510 homes, Chinna said. According to the agency’s latest annual report, it was able to undertake the largest public housing unit expansion in 20 years, thanks in large part to partnerships between the territorial and federal governments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 9, 2023.

This article was produced with financial support from the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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