Rob Warburton bought Northern Lites Motel in July 2022, and he had one overarching idea right after the purchase: shut the motel service down and turn it into affordable housing.

Yellowknifer decided to check in with Warburton on Thursday to see how things have been progressing. As it stands, two-thirds of the room renovations have been completed. When warmer weather in the summer arrives, the outside work will be finished, including a new roof, exterior finishes, stairs, exterior doors and fencing.

Warburton is planning to make the transformation of the property into a new home for 26 Yellowknife residents. So far, 13 units have completed and leased with the remaining 13 coming available over the next few months.

Renovations began in September 2022 and Warburton said the anticipated completion date is late summer 2023.

Warburton, who also serves as a city councillor, said that there is a tremendous need for the city to have more affordable housing for people to call home.

He said the territorial government cannot solve the housing problem by itself.

“The GNWT won’t be able to fix this on their own, because they don’t have enough money, and the GNWT is more focused on public housing,” he said. “There is some building ongoing in the city, but the demand is still really high. How we can dig ourselves out of this housing problem is that local people can do a small part.”

Warburton said he is an advocate for housing, and when the motel went up for sale, he thought this could be a great chance to help solve some of the problem.

When it comes to security, Warburton said that he is going to design a fencing system to provide a safe place to the tenants and anyone who are applies to live in a unit tenant will need to fill out a rental application that includes reference sections for work, personal and previous landlords. Checking these references is how he evaluate if they may be a stable long term tenant.

Warburton acknowledged that the security problem won’t change over night, but to have 26 more good people not living on the street will make a difference.

The building doesn’t have a new name yet, but he said that by the time of the grand opening, it will be re-named.

Kaicheng Xin

Kaicheng Xin is a Multimedia Journalist with NNSL Media. You can reach him at

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  1. Hi Lyda I totally agree with his plans.Alsi to the lady who thinks sining a one year lease is the wrong thing to do..I personally have rented Apts all across Canada for fifty years and have always had to sign a lease….common lease one year lease.THIS IS NOT A HOUSIBG PROGRAM IT IS AN ENTREPRENER PRIVATELY PUTTING A GREAT DEAL OF HIS OWN MONEY IN ORDER TO MAKE A VIABLE BUSINESS NOT ALL HOUSING IS PUBLIC

  2. I applaud Warburton’s dedication to improving housing for people at risk of homelessness. A very tangible and practical approach of putting private resources towards a solution. Every small step helps!

  3. Everyone’s question is if you are so about housing, why is it they have to sign a one year lease? No housing program makes you sign a one year lease.