Working From Home For Survival? Forbidden In Canada’s Arctic

A Three Story, very plain apartment building painted alternate vertical stripes of grey and green
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A free market apartment building in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Nothing fancy. Visit the rental website and view the prices that feel more appropriate for the housing-rich south. Hardly worth the bother, though, as the vacancy rate for free market units in Inuvik is close to zero.

“You can’t run a business from NWT public housing. Is that fair?” The question is asked in an article featured below about the rights of public housing renters in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

The answer: it depends.

Are we talking about a country and a territory that are still deeply committed to the idea of public housing reserved for society’s failures? If so, being forbidden to run a home-based business makes perfect sense.

Running a business from home is an attempt to crawl out of the gutter. As we all know, Canadian public housing is strongly influenced (as in many matters) by its U.S. neighbours to the south.

But even so august a personage as Martha Fudge, director of America’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) believes strongly in public housing for the poorest as an ‘up and out’ residency. How on earth do you climb up enough to self-rescue from the public housing den of despair if your are not permitted to use whatever legal resources you have to climb out of poverty, and presumably move out of your stigmatized and stimatizing digs?

Decades of damning public housing as a refuge for society’s refuse has psychological as well as physical consequences for those who view public housing as well as those who live there. We are led to see ‘working from home,’ not as a means for survival and to put food on the table, but as a scam by a community of scammers attempting to beat the system and rise above their their station-of-indolence in life. That view is one of public housing as a form of prison for leeches.

From this point of view, it is indeed fair to keep these evil wrigglers firmly squashed under the public thumb. More than fair, it is a practical necessity to keep the dregs of society from rising above their station in life.

This argument makes a whole heck of a lot more sense further south, where there is at least the illusion that society’s hard-working, productive folk have lots of housing to choose from.

However in the Canadian arctic, a longstanding cozy relationship between territorial government(s — Canada has two territories) and private developers means that private housing, affordable or not, billows up from the south as gusts of hot air that bring promise, but no product. Rent affordable private market housing in the NWT? Not Available. Rent office space on top of your low or no income? Not Available1.

Faced with the reality of the housing market in the Canadian Arctic, to be forbidden to try to improve your life by working from a public housing home is totally unfair.

Indeed, reflecting on Canada’s commitments to the human right to housing as it is promoted by the United Nations, those living public housing would be well on their way to experiencing that right. But the expression of a human right to housing misses a key component in the NWT. The right, as expressed by the UN, is the Human Right To Adequate Housing. The definition of ‘adequate’ includes, among other things, all-important necessities for survival.

If working from home is essential for an individual or family to put food on the table, then preventing them from doing so is in violation of Canada’s commitment to the UN’s Human Right To Affordable Housing. Housing NWT please take note.

As for governments, housing authorities and associations further south, it’s beneficial to consider how the dire housing conditions in the Canadian Arctic strip away all the fanciful notions available for renters that seem possible (but are not necessarily so) further south.

In the Canadian Arctic, the truth is unmasked. Attempting to crack a limited job market is one possible means of ‘getting ahead’. Working from home is another.

South or North, Canada’s commitment to the UN Right to Adequate Housing, is unmasked as a lie, if it prevents public housing residents anywhere, from at very least providing a means of helping put food on the table on the way to fulfilling, at the very least, Martha Fudge’s’ expressed principles of ‘up and out.’

Read more at Cabin Radio: You can’t run a business from NWT public housing. Is that fair?


  1. Try: Cold Facts: While The Govts Snooze, The REITs Abuse And The Tenants Lose