All of contentious $60M N.W.T. housing fund will now be spent this year

·3 min read

The entirety of a $60-million federal housing fund for the Northwest Territories – the source of much confusion and frustration as it languished untouched for a year – has been allocated in one go.

The territorial and federal governments said on Monday the $60 million will now be spent on 126 units across the N.W.T. The governments called this "the largest single-year housing investment in N.W.T. by any federal government in recent history."

While a joint news release issued by the governments stated the units would be new, N.W.T. housing minister Paulie Chinna said 17 of the 126 would be major repair projects involving existing units.

“This is the first major increase in public housing in over 25 years and it will make an impact for our revenue and stable housing,” Chinna said.

$25.5 million will be used by the N.W.T. Housing Corporation to build 60 affordable units – the governments did not define what will be considered affordable – in 16 of the territory's smaller communities. Construction of all 60 is expected to start this year.

$34.5 million will be given to Indigenous governments and organizations to open 66 more units "through the repair and new construction of mixed-income, mixed-tenure, and mixed-use housing."

Monday's announcement came after parliamentary housing secretary Adam Vaughan last week expressed frustration that the N.W.T. government had not touched any of the $60 million. The money is part of a national co-investment fund, meaning that any projects backed using the cash must have multiple sources of financial support.

“They’re sitting on $60 million in capital funding,” Vaughan said of the territory in a call with housing and homelessness groups.

Recounting an earlier meeting between federal housing minister Ahmed Hussen and his N.W.T. counterpart Chinna, Vaughan said Hussen asked why the $60 million had not been spent.

“For God’s sake, there’s money sitting here you could have been spending last year,” Vaughan continued, characterizing the exchange.

Several N.W.T. projects hoping for funding from the federal Rapid Housing Initiative discovered last week they would not receive money. Project leaders said they had been told part of the reason they missed out was the N.W.T. government's reluctance to spend the $60 million in the separate co-investment fund.

What happens to some of those rapid housing projects now is not clear.

Vaughan last week suggested Ottawa wanted the GNWT to free up some of the $60 million to fund those rapid housing proposals. Yet Monday's announcement suggests the entire $60 million is now accounted for, and several of the rapid housing project teams – for example, the City of Yellowknife and YWCA N.W.T. – do not appear to be included.

At a news conference on Monday morning, government representatives said the N.W.T. Housing Corporation had submitted 17 applications for Rapid Housing Initiative funding across the territory.

However there was no exact list of which rapid housing proposals were funded, and what would happen to other groups' proposals – such as those from the city and YWCA – was not clear.

The federal and territorial governments did not immediately state which Indigenous governments and groups would receive a share of the $34.5 million.

They did, however, break down which communities would benefit from the NWT Housing Corporation's $24.5-million share.

Behchokǫ̀ will receive six new builds. Twelve communities will receive four new builds: Délı̨nę, Fort Good Hope, Fort Liard, Fort Providence, Fort Resolution, Kakisa, Łútsël K'é, Nahanni Butte, Paulatuk, Tsiigehtchic, Tuktoyaktuk, and Tulita.

Ndılǫ and Dettah, Sambaa K'e, and Colville Lake will each receive two new builds.

Ollie Williams and Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio