Twenty-nine affordable housing units will be built or upgraded in three communities in the N.W.T., using funds from a federal housing initiative that went untouched for two years, but leadership in at least one of those communities says it won't be enough to address the housing shortage.
The money is part of the $60 million National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF) created in February 2019 to address the dire housing situation in the N.W.T. It will build 126 affordable housing units in the territory — 60 of which are being administered by the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, and 66 by Indigenous governments and organizations.
About one sixth of that funding — $9,825,007 to be precise — is earmarked for 18 housing units in Fort Providence, six units in Fort Good Hope and five units in Łutselk'e Dene First Nation, the federal government said Tuesday.
Here's a break down of how the money is being delivered:
Fort Good Hope Dene Band is receiving $3,083,744.
Łutselk'e Dene First Nation is receiving $1,945,665.
Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation in Fort Providence is receiving $4,795,598.
Darryl Marlowe, the chief in Łutselk'e, said it was "very great news" for his community.
"We've been through a long history in our communities, dealing with homelessness, overcrowding and poverty," he said. Five modular homes, which he expects to arrive in the summer, will "give an opportunity for more families to get a roof over their heads."
However, Marlowe said another 50 homes "at least" are needed to make sure all residents in Łutselk'e are comfortably housed.
"We've got a lot of young families that are up and coming," he explained. "A lot of the homes are very old, and it would be nice to get the majority of the community under a new roof."
Arthur Tobac, director of the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society in Fort Good Hope, couldn't say exactly how many units would be needed to alleviate the housing crisis there. He did say, however, that the new units are a step in the right direction.
"One of the units is selected to be a support unit — we have a men's transitional home in the community and it'll help transition people towards housing," he said. "We're trying to help people get to more healthier living, and I think putting a roof [over] their heads is a good start."
Meeting the needs of people living in the new units will also require the band to increase some of the services it manages — like providing water and sewage disposal, said Fort Good Hope Chief Tommy Kakfwi,
He said there might be a need for a larger water reservoir and sewage lagoon.
Tobac said there isn't much of a housing market in Fort Good Hope, and that there are a lot of young people between 25 and 40 years old waiting to get into its 40 public housing units.
Once the six units are built or shipped North, and once the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has finished adding four duplexes as part of a different housing project, Tobac said an assessment would be carried out to see whether the additions were "sufficient."
There was no representation from Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation at Tuesday's media conference, but N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod, who is from Fort Providence, said he knew the money was "very welcomed." Some of the 18 units are retrofits to existing homes that "were still in good condition and just needed some upgrades."
The others, said McLeod, are modular homes, duplexes and fourplexes.
In a statement issued by the federal government, Deh Gah Got'ie First Nations Chief Michael Vandell said the money would provide homes for people who are homeless or vulnerable in his community, while also boosting local businesses and creating employment opportunities.
Paulie Chinna, the minister responsible for the housing corporation and homelessness, said back in March 2021 that 109 of the 126 units earmarked for the territory would be new builds and 17 would be major repair projects.