Caroline Cochrane: Federal investment in northern housing

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in its mandate to work in partnership with other orders of government to address affordable housing requirements. As Members already know, our territory has housing needs well beyond those of the rest of Canada, especially in our rural and remote communities.  The Northwest Territories has the second highest level of core housing need in the country at 20% while the national average sits at 12.5%. 

To address this disparity, the Northwest Territories requires a long-term, sustainable and predictable partnership with the federal government.  We have been working closely with the other two northern territories to encourage the federal government to recognize the fiscal challenges associated with housing our people and take appropriate action. 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to report that this tri-territorial engagement is bearing fruit. In Budget 2016, the federal government announced $35.4 million in funding for affordable housing for the Northwest Territories to be delivered over the next two years. The federal government’s housing priority areas include funding for seniors, renovation and retrofit of social housing, victims of family violence, northern housing and Inuit housing. This includes $15 million for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region over the next two years.    

For fiscal year 2016-17, the federal allocation to the Northwest Territories is $16.6 million. Priorities in the first year will see $7.9 million spent on public housing replacement, $3 million on repair and renovation of Northwest Territories Housing Corporation rental housing, $1.2 million on singles units to address small community homelessness, $750 thousand for demolition of surplus housing,  another $750 thousand on repair support for third-party social housing providers, $600 thousand on homeownership repair, $600 thousand on semi-independent housing-first units within emergency shelters and $316 thousand for repairing family violence shelters.  Some of the funding will also be used for minor capital repairs and fuel and hot water tank replacements.  This federal funding enhances programming already underway by the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.  

In addition to federal funding, the Government of the Northwest Territories planned contribution for this year is 82 million dollars to support the operations of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased with the federal investment and thank them for demonstrating renewed commitment to housing for Northerners. But, federal funding for the operation of public housing is still declining. Public housing supports stable housing for two out every five households in our rural and remote communities and Canada still has a role to play.     We need to see progress from them on solutions around the sustainability of public housing. 

The next phase of federal engagement is the development of a National Housing Strategy. In support of that, I will be attending a federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for housing meeting at the end of this month.  I look forward to working in partnership with the other provinces, territories and the federal government to develop a flexible national housing strategy, one that has a strong northern component, so that provinces and territories can address the gaps and strengthen the housing continuum in their respective jurisdictions.    

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.