Letter to CFHA CEO on Ombudsman's Visit to Yellowknife

9 May 2016

Ms. Dominique Francoeur
Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Forces Housing Agency
National Defence Headquarters
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0K2

 

Dear Ms. Francoeur:

I am writing to follow up on my visit to Joint Task Force (North) (JTFN) Yellowknife from April 11-15, 2016. My staff and I were pleased to meet with the new Canadian Forces Housing Agency employee, Ms. Evelyn Keeping, who has been employed in Yellowknife for close to one year and Ms. Iona Mersereau, Manager Housing Services Centre Edmonton. I was impressed to see how the approval of the Housing Clerk Yellowknife position has brought positive changes for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and military families of Yellowknife.

During my visit, my staff and I listened to concerns and feedback from military personnel, civilian employees and military family members of JTFN. I am sharing with you some of the concerns we heard. As you know, one of the particularities of Yellowknife housing is that Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) manages the housing pool. This brings its own challenges. In other locations in the country, Department of National Defence accommodation guidelines allow members 60 days prior to posting to select Canadian Forces Housing Agency (CFHA) housing unit during a house hunting trip (HHT). However, in Yellowknife, the window is 45 days. Someone who comes in on a HHT more than 45 days prior to posting may not have the house they visited on their HHT but another one, once they are posted.

Members and staff, we spoke to during my visit discussed the frustrations and inconvenience of coordinating scheduled maintenance. PSPC currently requires five days’ notice to vacate, leaving repairs and maintenance to be done once occupants are already moved in. Another frustration is related to the limited window of time members have to select PSPC housing units.

I am concerned with the control of the keys for accessing units for repairs and maintenance. Some incidents reported clearly demonstrate a lack of control of the keys, which unlike other locations in Canada, are held by PSPC.

During our visit, I witnessed a responsive and effective team. The position of the housing clerk in Yellowknife is undoubtedly an essential one and has proven to be directly responsible of enhancement of services and resolution of housing issues. From the moment CAF members are going through the posting screening process, Ms. Evelyn Keeping contacts families to know what their needs are and tries to accommodate their requests, as an example, being close to a specific school. This initial contact greatly contributes to setting the stage for a good posting in the North.  Numerous families have provided positive feedback about Ms. Keeping which can be summarized as, “she makes a world of a difference”.

Ms. Keeping has been listening to families’ frustrations regarding the few pictures of PSPC units and the absence of measurements to adequately plan the move of their furniture. As a result, she has taken the initiative to take pictures of the interior of housing units with room measurements indicated. Once posted online, this information allows incoming families to better plan their move of household goods and effects, this being more important considering the limited storage space in Yellowknife. 

The overall satisfaction with the housing clerk in Yellowknife is outstanding and I promised to share this positive feedback with you. I am available to discuss further. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

 

Gary Walbourne

Ombudsman

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