It’s incredible what people can achieve when they try and realize their dreams.
Last week I had the chance to interview Arviat’s Daniel Alagalak, who recently started the carpentry business Arviat Off-Grid General Contractors with his best friend Samuel Karetak.
Alagalak and Karetak not only share the same passion for carpentry, they also share a vision: to be able to build affordable housing for Arviatmiut.
They’re certainly not the first Kivaliqmiut to dream of fixing the housing crisis faced by the people of Nunavut.
The crisis has been ongoing ever since it became a territory. According to a study presented by the Nunavut Housing Corporation to the standing Senate committee on Aboriginal peoples in 2016, 52 per cent of Nunavummiut live in social housing. Approximately 34 per cent of those houses are overcrowded.
Meanwhile, as of 2019 more than 5,000 people in the territory were on waiting lists for public housing.
We hear lots of talk about the need to address this massive shortage, and from time to time the federal government will step in to provide a few million dollars to add units.
Even when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $290 million in funding in 2019, most of that money had already been allocated.
As many critics have pointed out, these funds are barely keeping up with Nunavut’s growing population and the need to replace old, mould-infested units.
The housing issue is currently being brought onto the national spotlight by Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who launched her territory-wide housing tour last week.
She posted images showing the grotesque state of some of the dilapidated housing on social media from her first stop in Gjoa Haven.
It was no surprise that the posts generated a lot of feedback and a renewed public outcry to fix the situation.
While it will be a great chance for people in the region to voice their concerns, the question at the end of the tour will undoubtedly remain: how do we solve this problem?
So much of what is proposed comes in the form of public housing. With 80 per cent of people in public housing earning less than $23,000 per year, it is clear there is a need to support those who cannot afford homes.
However, is there also some merit to the dream of two best friends who want to be able to build small-scale affordable market housing.
It might not fulfill all of the territory’s housing needs but surely there must be some way of supporting local businesses who want to create jobs while also putting roofs over peoples’ heads.
Qaqqaq’s tour is expected to make several stops in the Kivalliq next week with stops in Coral Harbour (Aug. 17), Naujaat (Aug. 20), Rankin Inlet (Aug. 23) and Arviat (Aug. 24).
Hopefully when she is in Arviat she can find the time to meet with Alagalak and Karetak. Who knows, maybe one day the shared dream of two best friends may come true.