After spending months living in a canvas tent as they waited on public housing, a Paulatuk couple with a young child finally has a home to move into.
Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson advocated for the couple on Friday in the legislature, and repeated his plea for help on Wednesday after he learned there was an available house in the community the family could move into.
“[They’ve] been trying to get into public housing since their baby was one month old,” said Jacobson, saying the young family is currently living in a tent in the Arctic community. Being a tent, he said, it doesn’t have a bathroom or other necessities for raising a baby.
“It’s unbelievable that the baby’s 13 months old, and I’m still advocating for the family to have a roof over their heads. Winter’s sitting in. It’s -20C in the community.”
Back in 2020, the same couple had finally progressed through the waitlist for a home through Housing NWT, but was told their income was too high as they were receiving Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments during the pandemic and they were removed from the waitlist. Housing minister Paulie Chinna fixed the issue of Housing NWT counting CERB payments as income, and personally promised the couple in the summer of 2020 that their application would be prioritized when she visited their community.
Over two years later, the couple still didn’t have a home until Jacobson elevated their case in the legislature.
During question period on Wednesday, Jacobson grilled the housing minister, saying that a unit was available in the community but hadn’t been offered to the couple.
“I spoke to the mayor this morning,” he said. “There’s one unit available in Paulatuk and is ready to be moved in. So I’m just wondering if the couple is first on the waiting list like I’ve been told?”
“I’m not familiar with the unit that is available and the condition that the unit may be in and why the unit may be vacant,” responded housing minister Paulie Chinna. “I will work with the board of directors and look at the allocation.”
“The [housing] minister has the authority to make that decision right now,” said Jacobson, saying the housing minister could give the couple the available home immediately. “Will the minister commit to me today that you will assign Unit 65 to that young couple?”
“The tenants are number one on the wait list, so they are potentially next up for allocation,” Chinna responded.
But Jacobson wasn’t backing down. He continued to press the minister until Chinna promised they would be given Unit 65 in particular, even asking her to repeat herself to confirm it, prompting cheers and applause and from other members.
“We need the minister of housing to work with our community leadership and the people on the ground to show solutions today,” he said. “It’s 2022, and our people are living in the High Arctic raising their children in tents.”