Robert C. McLeod - Changes to Homeownership Programs

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

(October 21, 2013) - Mr. Speaker, today I would like to update the Legislative Assembly on changes to homeownership programs offered through the NWT Housing Corporation.

When we developed our strategic plan, Building for the Future, residents told us that we needed to examine our homeownership programs. They wanted us to recognize the different roles that homeownership plays in non-market and market communities. They told us we need to make these programs more effective.

Mr. Speaker, following our strategic plan we have made significant changes to Providing Assistance for Territorial Homeownership, our main homeownership subsidy program. We’ve changed the way we determine subsidy levels, expanded the eligible pool of clients, and significantly closed the gap between the cost of homeownership and public housing.

Our new approach provides higher subsidies in non-market communities with higher cost of living. For example, an eligible household in Deline would be able to purchase a new home for about $140,000 after receiving a subsidy under PATH. This would mean the client would have approximately $1,500 in monthly costs for their mortgage and utilities. This is very similar to the maximum rent charged for public housing clients.

The approach to the subsidy is different in market communities. Housing supply and development is much different in these communities and in market communities, the program focuses on helping first time homeowners.

Mr. Speaker, we have also changed the way we deliver our homeownership programs. Residents will now be able to apply for programs at any time during the year rather than only during a targeted intake period. We will work with clients to schedule repairs, making sure to allow for getting materials into the community and for weather conditions.

Mr. Speaker, homeowners are responsible for maintaining their homes and for completing any repairs that are required. The NWT Housing Corporation supports homeowners with modest income to meet that responsibility. We need to ensure that our emergency and major repair programs support homeowners but does not take away from their role in maintaining their own home.

Finally Mr. Speaker, last year we introduced the Revised Mortgage Balance Program for about 400 clients with mortgages payable directly to the NWT Housing Corporation. Most of these clients had considerable arrears, and collection r­ates were very low.

Since then, about 60% of our mortgage clients have taken advantage of the program. They have a fresh start and their mortgage payments are predictable and affordable. The success of the program is reflected in the monthly mortgage collection rates, which have averaged 85% for clients in the new program compared with less than 30% for those that have yet to sign up.

The NWT Housing Corporation will continue to work with clients who are continuing to accumulate mortgage arrears. They still have an opportunity to take advantage of the Revised Mortgage Balance Program, but there are a number of files now being advanced through the legal process.

Mr. Speaker, the homeownership programs support residents to meet their own housing needs. The approach to Securing Assistance for Emergencies, our emergency repair program, to the new Providing Assistance for Territorial Homeownership, our homeownership subsidy program, and to Contributing Assistance for Repairs and Enhancements, our major repair program, reflect our partnership approach between homeowners and the NWT Housing Corporation.

The vision of the 17th Legislative Assembly includes strong individuals, families and communities, and I look forward to working with all Members as we continue to work on our housing priorities.

Thank You, Mr. Speaker.