Nunavut—which means “Our Land” in Inuktitut—is a vast, remote and sparsely populated territory in northern Canada that stretches across most of the Canadian Arctic. Following decades of hard work and advocacy by Inuit visionaries and their allies, the territory was established on April 1, 1999, and has since become one of the strongest economies and fastest-growing regions of Canada.
Nunavut provides a vital link to the rest of world through its maritime shipping and air transportation routes. Its main industries including mining, construction, and transportation create many jobs, as do public services such as education and health care. Each year, thousands of Canadians travel to the territory for work or play, attracted by its culturally rich and welcoming communities.
Nunavut is home to about 36,800 people, 85 per cent of whom are Inuit. By 2043, Statistics Canada estimates that the territory’s population will be nearly double what it was in 1999.
Like Nunavut itself, Nunavummiut are young. In 2021, there were approximately 6,800 youth between the ages of 10 and 20. As this generation enters adulthood, they need places to live where they can start their careers, raise their families, and build their communities.
In October 2022, the Nunavut Housing Corporation announced a new plan for action to help address the territory’s housing challenge and address the growing needs of Nunavummiut. Igluliuqatigiingniq: Building Houses Together—also referred to as Nunavut 3000—is the Corporation’s vision to support the development of 3,000 new housing units across every community in Nunavut by 2030.
The plan is ambitious and recognizes that no one group can solve Nunavut’s housing challenge alone. The Nunavut Housing Corporation will deliver Igluliuqatigiingniq by building enduring partnerships with Inuit organizations and working with other stakeholders. Nunavut 3000 is a new approach to housing development in the territory that will build a foundation for healthy and resilient communities for generations to come.
Tackling Nunavut’s Housing Supply Challenge
In Nunavut, settlement in permanent communities is a relatively new phenomenon. Many elders can still recount their childhood years travelling by dog teams, following the path of migrating animals, and setting up camp to reap the harvest from the land and water.
Today, the territory’s 25 mostly coastal communities are isolated and there are often thousands of kilometers between them. With no roads connecting them, they rely on sealift and airfare to transport all their goods, materials, and labour.
The high cost of transportation in the north makes everything more expensive and the cost of building supplies like lumber and paint is among the highest in Canada. The window to ship materials is short and limited to the summer months on sealift. The need to transport skilled tradespeople to and from work sites makes construction even more challenging.
The result is that the territory’s housing market has been slow to develop, leaving significant gaps in the housing continuum. More than half of Nunavummiut live in public housing and some of the lowest vacancy rates in the country makes it difficult for them to find good, affordable housing in their communities. People who need temporary and crisis shelters also lack options.
The Nunavut Housing Corporation manages approximately 7,800 public and staff housing units, or about two thirds of the territory’s overall housing supply of 11,720 dwellings . Approximately 60 per cent of public housing units were constructed before Nunavut became a territory in 1999.
Recognizing the situation will get worse without a new approach, the Nunavut Housing Corporation developed Nunavut 3000 to provide a platform to invest in housing using innovative procurement methods, developing enduring partnerships with Inuit organizations, and engaging with other housing stakeholders and developers.
The Nunavut Housing Corporation is redesigning its programs and introducing new incentivizes to support the development of affordable and transitional housing. Programs will be available to builders, homeowners, investors, and community housing providers.
The vision for all Nunavummiut to live in adequate, safe, and healthy homes will be achieved by:
• expanding the housing continuum and increasing the range of housing options available to Nunavummiut;
• reducing the social and economic costs of inadequate and unaffordable housing;
• mitigating the factors that contribute to the high cost of housing construction so that more units can be delivered for the same investment;
• increasing the proportion of Nunavut’s housing stock that meets modern building codes and performance standards, including energy efficiency and climate resiliency;
• supporting the development of a stronger Nunavut-based housing supply chain; and
• developing building and construction tradesworkers among Nunavut Inuit.
Nunavut 3000 is a long-term plan to increase the number of housing units built in the territory by 3,000 units over the next 10 years. Through the plan, all communities in Nunavut will receive housing.
Nunavut 3000 targets new units across the four housing segments—transitional, public, affordable, and market—in response to the territory’s overall affordability challenges and market need.
The plan triples the rate of new public housing units built each year and supports partnerships to build transitional, affordable, and market housing units. Overall, Nunavut 3000 plans for the development of:
• 300 transitional beds/units
• 1,400 public housing units
• 900 affordable housing units
• 400 market housing units
Public housing will be delivered through Nunavut Housing Corporation’s conventional procurement process as well as innovative partnerships agreements with Inuit organizations. Transitional, affordable, and market housing will be delivered through new programs designed for not-for profits, community organizations, and private sector companies.
Ensuring that Nunavummiut live in adequate, safe, and healthy homes is a common priority of the Government of Nunavut and its partners in housing.
Strategic Partnerships to Ensure Success
Nunavut Housing Corporation is undertaking exciting new procurement approaches to achieve Nunavut 3000’s goals for housing and support the development of a stronger local supply chain to help ensure sustainability into the future.
While the Corporation will continue to engage the market through standard design-build and design-bid-build delivery models, Nunavut 3000 is an opportunity to build enduring partnerships with Inuit organizations through negotiated design-build contracts.
NCC Development Ltd.
One of the most significant pillars of the Nunavut 3000 strategy is the Partnership Agreement between Nunavut Housing Corporation and NCC Development Ltd. (NCCD) for the delivery of up to 2,000 units over the next 10 years—two-thirds of the overall Nunavut 3000 target.
NCCD is a large developer of commercial and residential properties and is 100% owned by Inuit, via the three Regional Inuit Associations (RIAs) development corporations, along with Nunasi Corporation.
This transformational engagement will result in significant investment and allow benefits to flow to the three Regional Inuit Associations who represent all Inuit across Nunavut and have controlling interest in NCCD.
The 10-year Partnership Agreement provides certainty in pursuing larger volumes, integrating resources, and applying best practices.
The Partnership Agreement outlines the values and goals shared by partners including developing Inuit workforce capacity and providing Inuit with opportunities for meaningful employment and careers in the housing construction and maintenance sector.
Training and Employment
Construction is a significant industry in Nunavut and the territory’s construction employers rely on skilled workers from southern Canada to supplement the local labour supply. Job opportunities are available for general labourers, trades helpers, Red Seal carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc.
Flying workers to and from Nunavut is expensive. Providing employment readiness and construction trades training in communities to help develop local labour capacity and build a sustainable housing construction labour force is a key goal of Nunavut 3000 and a significant element of the Partnership Agreement between Nunavut Housing Corporation and NCCD.
To support this training strategy, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was developed to help guide Nunavut Housing Corporation’s collaboration with NCCD as well as training partners such as the Department of Family Services (Apprenticeship Division) and Nunavut Arctic College (Trades School).
The objectives of the MOU are to:
• maximize training investments
• align curriculum and training resource development
• support recruitment efforts, and
• foster the development of a local labour supply
In 2023, the Nunavut 3000 plan will result in up to 80 training opportunities in the communities where new public housing building is taking place.
The goal is to align local training capacity to construction opportunities and provide a range of training opportunities to meet individual learner needs, including skills and competencies for entry into constructions jobs as well as support individuals to advance their careers in construction.
The Nunavut 3000 strategy will result in the development of pre-apprentices, apprentices, and skilled tradespeople and improve the availability of skilled workers in the local labour force.
With the country’s expected labour shortage in the skilled trades due to Canada’s aging population, recruiting from the south will become more difficult as the territory competes with other jurisdictions for skilled labour.
To grow the local construction labour force in Nunavut, the territory’s construction trades training system stands ready to enhance the skills of Nunavummiut so that more of them can benefit from employment in the trades.
The government is updating its approach to developing and certifying skilled workers and apprenticeships. This includes tutoring supports, literacy and numeracy training, and introducing practice-based credentials.
Transitional and Affordable Housing Goals
In Nunavut, the community housing sector lacks capacity, and the transitional workforce makes it difficult to attract volunteers for not-for-profit organizations that are vital for supporting purpose-built housing, such as shelters.
Community housing is owned and operated by non-profit housing corporations and/or housing co-operatives and/or land trusts.
To ensure this vital aspect of the housing continuum is addressed, the Nunavut 3000 plan includes the implementation of an annual Nunavut Housing Supply Challenge. Each year, the Nunavut Housing Corporation will issue a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) to provide housing stakeholders an opportunity to share their ideas for addressing Nunavut’s housing challenges. Nunavut Housing Corporation recently closed the Expression of Interest in March 2023 and received approximately 30 proposals from interested stakeholders.
Through this process, community groups and housing stakeholders that may not have the resources or experience to pursue ideas or projects on their own were invited to submit ideas for affordable and transitional housing projects. In some instances, proposals may develop into project specific partnerships or project co-investments may be considered.
The most promising ideas will be eligible for seed funding for groups to develop their projects including professional advice and assistance such as support for proposal development to help access funding.
The new Nunalingni Piruqpaalirut Fund, developed as a partnership between the Nunavut Housing Corporation and Community Housing Transformation Centre (CHTC), will help build the capacity of and empower Nunavut’s community housing partners to serve the most vulnerable residents in their communities.
The CHTC is a pan-Canadian non-profit organization founded in 2018 in response to the National Housing Strategy by a network of organizations from across Canada that represent and serve the needs of the community-housing sector. Since December 2019, the Centre has supported over 338 projects with funds totalling close to $23 million.
CHTC’s contacts and connections across Canada will help the Nunavut Housing Corporation to tap into the knowledge and expertise of national community housing leaders and learn from the best practices of other jurisdictions.
Working together to fulfill the promise of Nunavut
The Nunavut Housing Corporation can’t respond to the housing challenge alone. Partnerships, shared investment, and collective responsibility are key to meeting the housing needs of Nunavummiut.
In the Katujjiluta mandate, the Government of Nunavut committed to working collaboratively with Inuit organizations, industry stakeholders, and with other levels of government to achieve tangible outcomes. Nunavut 3000 supports this by leveraging the capacity of partners in innovative ways to develop, design, and construct housing.
By taking a new approach, the Nunavut Housing Corporation will help develop housing in every community and expand the housing continuum across the territory. Nunavut 3000 lays a foundation for healthy and resilient communities where all Nunavummiut can prosper and where youth can grow to become the territory’s next generation of community builders.
For more information, please visit www.nunavuthousing.ca