Every time we hear anyone talk about the dire need for residential land development in Hay River – which is quite often, of course – we wonder if that is what the town really needs.

The common belief goes something like this: Hay River and area will likely see major economic growth over the next few years, and that will mean a growing population, and that means it needs land developed now for housing lots for people flocking to this new land of opportunity.

We can follow that logic right up to the last clause, because it makes the assumption that newcomers will want to buy houses here. Is th

at a certainty, or just unfounded optimism by the town’s movers and shakers?

We can understand the optimism to a degree, because the town has little land left to sell, so there is no doubt a demand for land.

But that is all we ever hear – land development and more land development.

The controversial Fraser Place proposed development seems closest to reality, while a larger proposal – the Evergreen/Sundog residential and commercial development near the new hospital – seems as far away as ever.

So for all the talk about land development, surprisingly little seems to actually be happening to move towards that goal.

We think the actual goal should be a broader idea – development of accommodations, which to us would include developing more rental space.

It seems just as likely that the hundreds of people who may be attracted to town might want to rent before they decide to buy a house in a new community. You would think that would especially apply to a person starting a new job.

Some people never want to buy a house, and are quite happy renting.

We think that more apartment buildings should be an equal goal with the elusive goal of developing land.

Now, we don’t expect the town to build apartment buildings, but perhaps it could somehow encourage private developers to do so.

Of course, there are already apartment buildings in Hay River.

But there is one building that would dominate – physically and symbolically – any consideration of new apartment buildings in the community. That is obviously the Mackenzie Place highrise, which is still closed after a fire almost a year ago.

On March 15, 2019, water sprays through a window during the firefighting effort against a blaze in Apt. 1102 of the Mackenzie Place highrise.
NNSL file photo

As reported in this edition of The Hub, there is some promising news about the mould and asbestos cleanup in the highrise which may hopefully be a step towards the building eventually reopening.

Until the highrise is reopened and rehabilitated, there may be resistance to more apartment buildings in Hay River, even of the three-storey or four-storey variety.

That’s because it is an indisputable fact that the highrise has made apartment living less attractive in Hay River. But we are somewhat optimistic that the new highrise will be an improvement on the old.

More apartment buildings may be part of the answer to the housing crunch in Hay River. The community needs that as much as land development for single-unit housing or duplexes.

Not everyone wants to build or buy a house, but everyone needs a place to live.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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