Canada's Northern Strategy identified four priorities: exercising Arctic sovereignty; promoting social and economic development; protecting the environment; and improving and devolving Northern governance.
While progress has been made on some of these priorities, the chronic lack of housing throughout the territories and provincial North continues to undermine efforts to promote social and economic development. The lack of adequate affordable, social and market housing impedes both community and economic development.
The three territorial governments lack the resources to meet their housing challenges on their own due to limited own-source revenues from resource development projects. Recognizing this, the federal government has made significant commitments to affordable and social housing in the past, but these have been short-term solutions with current investments soon to expire.
Market housing is also falling short of the need. Where rising demand for housing in the rest of Canada would trigger a market response and more housing, this mechanism is blocked in the North by the high cost of construction, utilities, and land development.
The resulting housing shortage discourages families from moving to the North and contributes to a transient, fly-in-fly-out workforce that does not spend or pay taxes locally. Addressing this challenge is critical to attraction and retention of skilled workers.
The Government of Canada should:
1) Work with local and provincial/territorial governments and the private sector to fix the housing market in the North by providing:
• tax credits to developers building homes;
• low-rate financing to home buyers and developers building rental housing; and
• funding to service and supply land for housing.
2) Support retrofits to existing housing to reduce energy costs;
3) Renew federal housing subsidies to sustain existing social housing;
4) Implement a supplementary long-term Northern Affordable Housing Program focused on communities affected by resource development; and
5) Introduce trades training and apprenticeship programs to expand skilled construction trades and develop home-building capacity.
Conference Board report Framing Sustainable Options for Housing Canada's North (December 2012)
Northwest Territories Economic Opportunities Strategy (October 2013)