N.W.T. removes barriers to private homeowners getting repairs to their property

Mildred Lockheart of Łutselk’e, N.W.T. says she always dreads December when the pipes under her house freeze and she’ll have to empty over a dozen buckets of raw sewage a day.

She’s been living like this for the last few years.

“It’s been a struggle,” Lockhart said. “We usually just use a honey bucket and take showers at friends until it warms up.”
She’s been caring for the house while her elderly father stays in Yellowknife for medical reasons.

The remote 300-person dene community of Łutselk’e, has many older homes in desperate need of repairs.

This year, Lockhart applied for funding through Housing NWT’s emergency repair program but was denied because her father, the homeowner had a salary that exceeded the program’s $60,000 income cap.

“I don’t make much and I try hard to keep it going because this is where my dad built his home for us and he worked everyday and I want to keep it up and running,” she said.

Elenor Young, president and CEO of Housing NWT said the territorial government is looking into its policies and practices to dismantle barriers for people with significant housing problems.

“In the last probably 10 to 15 years we’ve been perceived to just be another landlord, and a business and not focusing on social wellness,” Young said.

Since March 2021, Housing NWT – formerly known as NWT Housing Corporation – has been reviewing the model and delivery of programs for a new housing renewal strategy.

The territorial entity currently operates 2,400 housing units, an aging stock with ongoing maintenance challenges.

Wanda Grossetete in Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation – Fort Simpson, N.W.T., is in the same position. Her son has been living with her – a house heated by a single propane heater through a cold northern winter.

She said she needs support.

“My husband did go to housing and they told him that they can’t help us because we need insurance first,” she said. “It is really frustrating that we have had no help from housing. We have no where else to turn. We have a temporary power box and to use that we use power cords.

“There’s mold from the basement because it got wet from all the water. In the laundry room where the water tank is that has to be all ripped out and we need a new water tank and water tank.”

Grossetete said she was deniced help because she didn’t have insurance – which is a problem – no one in the neighbourhood can get insurance because the area lacks infrastructure – like fire hydrants.

But Young said a change to the policy in 2021 which removed an applicants need to have insurance may not have filtered down to local housing authorities that can deliver nine different repair programs for private homeowners.

“Prior to 2021 we actually required proof of insurance form for individuals to access some of our repair programs and it was absolutely a barrier,” she said. “In 2021, that, and owning the land where two things that we removed, as eligibility criteria to get access to our program.

“So, you know, we are making sure those who need the money for health and safety. Repairs are able to get it without insurance being a barrier. More, broadly. Speaking insurance is absolutely an issue both for homeowners.”

According to Young, applications to the program have increased “75 per cent over the last few years.”

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