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Eugene Alfred, ? 2008

New Approaches To The Canadian North Housing Issue

Residents of the Canadian North have been struggling with an inadequate housing market for many years now, and traditional ‘solutions’ have proven to be little more than stop gap measures. With a burgeoning population, record poverty and unemployment rates, and chronic unavailability of housing options, the region has the lowest rates of home ownership in the country.


Although the Canadian government has made efforts to promote socioeconomic development and to address governance and sovereignty concerns, relatively little has been done about the worsening state of local housing in the northern territories. For the inhabitants of the Canadian North, low-cost housing options seem destined to remain beyond reach.


The lack of housing in the North continues to be a serious stumbling block in the region’s quest toward social and economic development. Without access to good quality affordable housing, there are few opportunities for local residents to become active contributors in the social and political spheres.


With the three territorial Canadian North governments lacking the financial resources and capability to address the local housing issues, it has fallen upon the federal government to come up with suitable solutions for the region’s need for quality housing at affordable prices. However, many of the federal government’s proposed solutions have fallen short of the goal to provide suitable housing. In a classic case of ‘too little, too late’, the measures proposed by the federal government have proven to be short-term at best, and ineffective at worse.


Even socially funded housing is inadequate to meet the needs of the local community. In anywhere else in the country, an increase in demand would spur on a spell of new development as the market attempts to cope with the need. In the Canadian North however, the high prices of building materials and utilities, and of development, have left the industry in stasis.


Addressing the housing demand in the North will do more than just benefit the local community in the short term. As more and more good quality, affordable houses are developed, more people may be enticed to live in them. With more people taking on local jobs and paying taxes locally, the region could experience a new period of renewed growth.


As local housing proponents continue to negotiate for more lasting solutions from the federal government, a number of forward thinking builders, planners, and developers have taken it upon themselves to come up with innovative new strategies for dealing with the perennial housing shortage in the North. Many of these efforts were initiated by community-based organizations and private citizens with the goal of providing high-quality affordable housing for the populace. Some of the methods outlined for the improvement of the local housing market involve developing and maintaining new low-cost rental housing options. Keeping a variety of low-cost rental housing options available can also help turn around the local real estate market.


There is also significant promise in innovative new designs that emphasize durability and reliability along with low cost. With these methods, the housing market in the Canadian North may finally be able to see some light at the end of an otherwise dark tunnel.