Approximately $70 million has been invested into the public and staff housing builds for the 2020-2021 season, which ends in October 2021. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL photo

The number of public housing units planned for the 2020-2021 construction season has been reduced by 24 units amid Covid-19. In February of this year, the Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC) announced a plan of constructing 130 public housing units in the territory; 70 in Iqaluit and 60 in other Northern communities.

Now, 46 public housing units are to be constructed for the 2020-2021 season in Iqaluit. The other 24 housing units will be put out for tender in January 2021, said Mike McPherson, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of NHC.

“Due to Covid-19 there were some slowdowns dealing with the City of Iqaluit to finalize the lots that we’re looking at for development permits and finalizing our designs with the city,” said McPherson.

The slowdowns occurred since the city was not open to the public and in-person meetings were not held, he added.

However, for all the other Northern communities 60 units will still be built as originally planned. Naujaat and Pond Inlet will see 15 residences built in each community. Hall Beach and Kugaaruk are set to build 10 houses each.

The NHC had also announced the building of five staff housing units in each of the following communities: Gjoa Haven, Kugluktuk and Sanikiluaq.

This plan is being upheld with one exception, Sanikiluaq will build four instead of five staff housing units this construction season. McPherson said a staff housing unit has been deferred due to land issues.

Approximately $70 million has been allocated to the public and staff housing builds for the 2020-2021 season, which ends in October 2021.

“I do see business as usual for construction,” he said.

A foundation from a housing construction project in Arctic Bay from 2019. photo courtesy of GN

The NHC Vice President said the construction season, which usually begins in March or April, has faced “some minimal delays” amid Covid-19.

On May 28, Lorne Kusugak, minister of Community and Government Services, officially announced the decision to move forward with the construction season in Nunavut despite Covid-19.

Alongside Inuit and Northern workforce, skilled workers from southern Canada are working on housing projects.

All southern construction workers building housing units are complying to the strict requirements of the 14-day isolation period, assured McPherson. These skilled workers are isolating in Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton, he said. To date 70 construction workers have isolated in hubs. The companies that have been awarded construction tenders through NHC are being assisted with quarantine fees.

Compared to last year’s construction season, the number of construction workers building houses has not decreased this season due to Covid-19, said McPherson.

The greatest challenge for NHC however, during the pandemic, has been a “logistical challenge” around organizing the hubs for the construction workers, said McPherson.

Making flight arrangements that coincide with the days employees are scheduled to check into an isolation hub has been a challenge, he explained. This involves pre-planning and communicating with companies, construction workers, hubs and the Department of Health.

“It has been a logistical challenge, but we’re proud that we managed to move forward with all our bills to support Nunavummiut and Inuit for getting new housing constructed,” said McPherson.

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Rajnesh Sharma

Rajnesh Sharma is a Canadian journalist, who has extensively travelled the world to experience various cultures. She has lived and worked internationally over the past decade, meeting and interviewing...