Fire brings housing plight

Fire brings housing plight

A Fort Resolution man could find himself paying tens of thousands of dollars for a home that caught fire July 6.

“My mom and dad gave me that house and when we came and signed the papers, the guy we signed it with said we didn’t have to pay nothing because we got the house from my mom and dad,” Leonard Beaulieu Jr. said, describing the circumstances through which he said his parents gifted him the now fire-damaged home.

Before the house burned down, Beaulieu said he was approached by a new housing official who tried to get him to sign a mortgage plan to pay back $21,000.

“When I signed for it the first time, we could have paid that long ago and now they just throw this big bill at us,” Beaulieu said.

The representative was willing to take the bill down to $11,000, Beaulieu said, “and I told them I’m not going to pay even that.”

He said he hasn’t heard about the matter since that exchange. In the meantime, he’s having a tough time making ends meet. The fire took all his clothes, forcing him to rely on donations.

Both he and his wife were unemployed at the time of the fire and they hadn’t budgeted for the cost of the burned home, nor the cost of rent they now face as they look for other places to live.

“I don’t have that kind of money right now,” he said. “I’ve got three kids to feed plus the power bill and water bill. It’s hard to live on $800 every two weeks.”

Their interim housing arrangements put him, his wife and kids in a two-bedroom house they share with his father-in-law and sister-in-law.

“I can’t stay where I’m staying right now because we’re sleeping on the floor,” he said.“His house is not big enough for my family and his family.”

The fire-damaged home was built in the 1970s according to his mother, Terri Beaulieu, who attributes the bill to some renovation work the housing corporation conducted before she and her husband gave it to their son.

She said she was under the impression that the housing corporation would foot the bill.

“They give you something for nothing, and then they turn around and you gotta give them something for it,” she told The Journal.

Tu Nede MLA Tom Beaulieu said he’s discussed options with the family.

“We didn’t get into the specifics of his current mortgage, but we did talk about what his options would be right now,” he said, adding that they’re currently looking at public housing. “Regardless of what his mortgage situation with the house that burnt was, he needed a house.”

NWT Housing corporation spokesperson Revi Lau-a said he can’t speak to the case due to privacy concerns. Some housing situations can be confusing, but most have a legitimate explanation behind them, he said.

“If there is something that we’re doing in a particular way and people don’t understand why, that’s something that our communications needs to address,” Lau-a said.

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley has raised the issue of housing units in N’Dilo and Dettah sitting vacant, despite a waiting list he characterizes as lengthy.

“I think the perception is that when you see an empty house, it is property of the NWT Housing Corporation and that’s not necessarily the case,” Lau-a said, adding that sometimes it could be an abandoned home or market housing.

There are also cases when home ownership units can sit empty because there are no clients eligible for the program, he said.

Meanwhile, Leonard Beaulieu Jr. said his cramped living conditions have led him to consider moving back into the fire-damaged home, but his mother says that’s an unlikely option.

“He can’t, it’s completely demolished,” she said.

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