Yellowknife company wants to build 60 new units downtown

·2 min read
A Yellowknife company purchased five buildings in a bid to create more affordable housing in the city and keep profits circulating locally. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC - image credit)
A Yellowknife company purchased five buildings in a bid to create more affordable housing in the city and keep profits circulating locally. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC - image credit)

A Yellowknife company just bought up five buildings in the city's downtown in a bid to balance out the glut of unaffordable and southern-controlled ownership of rental units in the city.

They're looking to build 60 new units in total, each energy efficient and 20 per cent below market rent.

Biswanath Chakrabarty, president of Range Lake Developments, said the purchase is good for Yellowknife's economy, and will help people find affordable housing.

"Our goal is not to just make profit, it's to become part of the society," he said.

The company is working with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and NWT Housing Corporation on a funding proposal.

When the Bromley family put up five downtown buildings for sale, Chakrabarty saw it as a risk that southern companies would swoop in and increase their already large slice of Yellowknife's real estate pie.

"We thought, if we did not buy this, somebody from down South will," said Chakrabarty, who has lived here since 2001.

The buildings, formerly owned by the Bromley family, include the 50-50 Mini mall, the Dawn Building, Graham Bromley Building, the former Harley's Hardrock Saloon building and the old day shelter.

The purchase is already creating local employment with hiring of cleaners, carpenters and a property manager, he said.

Local ownership keeps money in the North

When Chakrabarty started a business 11 years ago, he was initially renting from a southern company, but once he bought the building he worked in, he and his business partners realized that not only were they housing themselves, they were turning profit, and keeping more money circulating locally.

"We thought, why don't we kind of enhance that model and compete with the down South landlords who are coming and buying and renting and taking the money down South and pretty much not leaving anything else here," he said.

Chakrabarty says construction of the new units could begin in the summer of 2022.

Gov't should support northern-based landlords

Biswanath Chakrabarty says he saw a sale of five buildings as an opportunity to insulate Yellowknife from southern ownership.
Biswanath Chakrabarty says he saw a sale of five buildings as an opportunity to insulate Yellowknife from southern ownership. (Submitted by Biswanath Chakrabarty.)

Chakrabarty said the government should support enterprises with a mandate to work with local businesses and partner with Indigenous groups.

It's one way to "keep the southern players out" by working with local people, he said.

"Yellowknife has a big problem, which is an affordable housing problem," he said.

Chakrabarty, president of Innovative Business Solutions says their enterprise has the benefit of two former MLAs within their business structure — David Ramsay who is their vice president of government and industry relations, and former Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Tom Beaulieu who is vice president of Indigenous relations.

"We want to work with the government [and] government should support local landlords," he said. "If the government wants more office space, we can build for them."

"The government has a huge responsibility for economic development and creating employment."