Anyone moving into Hay River recently, including this Hub writer, will know that getting housing ain’t easy.

And god help you if you are choosey or have particular tastes for large families, pets or have accessibility needs.

But the Town of Hay River is making moves to get the full picture on housing demand and accommodate those who see the promise of a quality of life our community has to offer.

For anyone who caught senior administrative officer Glenn Smith’s must-see overview of the town’s responsibilities in getting housing to market—from acquiring land to rezoning to tendering documents to sales—the municipality’s job is indeed one big puzzle.

A roughly 20-plus-question community-housing-plan survey was launched on the Town website as part of that herculean effort on Jan. 10 and residents should take a brief few minutes to fill it out.

While folks may groan at the idea of having to fill out another survey for another “government plan,” this one should draw special attention as it aims to collect a wide net of data that will surely help shape the specifics for future housing around town.

Some planned neighbourhoods, like Aspen Heights, a long-awaited extension adjacent to 553, will require heavy capital investments (meaning your tax dollars will be in play).

Included in the survey are questions about age demographics, home-ownership status, challenges around renting in Hay River, use of government programs, preference for housing styles and neighbourhoods, and major challenges for housing like climate change, affordability or homelessness.

All of that data was needed yesterday as housing-related problems have been well heard around the council table over the last six months. Among them, the after-effects of the 2019 Mackenzie-Place-highrise fire which has led to a lack of shelter for tenants with special needs.

In other areas, loud calls for climate change and flood mitigation have been heard from Vale Island while cries about homelessness in the commercial core have been particularly poignant this year.

It should come as no secret for longtime residents who have seen the town’s population stay relatively stable over the last three decades that these are pivotal times when it comes to addressing housing shortages while meeting the town’s growth needs.

According to the community plan passed last year, the municipality expects to welcome anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 new residents within this decade largely due to economic development expected in areas of wood pellet production, increased port activity associated with a growing critical mineral industry or government contracts like the demolition of the old hospital.

Should economic-development projects largely fall into place, the town is going to need a steady hand and clear direction to ensure families get the kinds of homes and neighbourhoods they want.

It can only do that with the best data possible at hand. We call on residents to do your part and take a bit of time to fill out the town’s survey.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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