$60M housing fund for Canada’s Northwest Territories to be spent, 2 years after it was first announced

A boarded-up public housing unit in Behchoko, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. (Curtis Mandeville/CBC)
The government has drawn criticism for not touching the funds, meant to address the dire housing situation

Over 100 new affordable housing units are set to be built or repaired in the Northwest Territories.

According to a joint news conference Monday between the territorial government and the federal government, the contentious $60 million earmarked for the territory from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF) will be used to work on 126 affordable housing units.

The government has drawn criticism for not touching the funds — meant to address the dire housing situation in the Northwest Territories — for nearly two years after it was initially created.

In November, CBC also reported some Indigenous leaders were surprised to learn that $60 million in federal funding was available for housing projects in the Northwest Territories.

Under the agreement announced Monday, about $25.5 million of the funds will be administered by Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to build 60 affordable housing units in 16 remote communities.

Among the communities to get new builds include Fort Resolution, Kakisa, Fort Providence, Łutselk’e, Behchoko, Ndılǫ and Dettah, Sambaa k’e, Nahanni Butte, Fort Liard New, Délı nę, Tulita, Fort Good Hope, Colville Lake, Tsiigehtchic, Tuktoyaktuk and Paulatuk.

The statement from both governments says the new affordable housing units will “help meet GNWT’s mandate commitment to increase the stock of quality, energy-efficient and affordable housing, especially for vulnerable persons, by 100 units over four years.” The funding will support 17 projects delivered by the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation (NWTHC) and six community-lead projects.

The other $34.5 million is set to go toward supporting Indigenous governments and organizations to create 66 affordable homes through the repair and new construction of mixed-income, mixed-tenure and mixed-use housing.

‘Historical day’

Paulie Chinna, minister responsible for the NWTHC, called Monday a “historical day” for housing in the N.W.T., later adding it’s the first major increase in public housing in over 25 years. She said a total of 109 of the units are set to be new builds, while 17 will be “major repair projects.”

“The projects will be initiated this summer,” Chinna said.

“What this means is that smaller communities like Behchokǫ̀, Fort Resolution, Fort Liard, Colville Lake and Paulatuk will be getting new units, new builds. It means that the waiting list will go down in the communities and it means that more N.W.T. residents will have a safe and appropriate place to call home.”

Chinna also said the territorial government will keep finding “opportunities” to invest to help address the “significant and urgent housing needs of N.W.T. residents.”

The GNWT is funding the operation and maintenance of the 60 new public housing units, estimated to cost $1.5 million each year. The units are expected to operate over the next 50 to 60 years.

Improve quality of life: McLeod

The funds from NHCF are meant to help offset high construction costs caused by the building challenges faced in the North.

The agency gives priority to projects that help vulnerable people, including women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, those with mental health or addiction issues, veterans and young adults.

Ahmed Hussen, minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the decision to spend the money is a result of a partnership between the GNWT, the federal government and Indigenous partners.

“This is the national housing strategy at work,” Hussen said. “It is flexible, it is also in tune with the needs of northern communities.”

N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod says he regularly sees the northern housing challenges “first hand.” He says the new units will help improve the quality of life and will help to create jobs and stimulate local economies.

“Our government recognizes the unique housing needs and challenges here in the Northwest Territories and across the North,” McLeod said.

-Written by Amy Tucker with files from Richard Gleeson

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s PM says COVID-19 pandemic amplified housing, connectivity gaps in territories, CBC News

Finland: Report highlights Finland’s top 5 housing problems, Yle News

Norway: Population declining in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Abandoned properties a challenge for rural Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Budget cuts threaten transitional housing program in Alaska’s largest city, Alaska Public Media

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