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The YWCA NWT is turning to the community to support new affordable housing units in Yellowknife.

For its development of Lynn’s Place 2.0, an expansion of the existing transitional housing facility, the YWCA aims to raise $200,000 with the Buy a Brick, Build a House campaign.

The expansion will provide 21 new units for women and children seeking housing due to homelessness or leaving an abusive relationship. The new residences are set to be built next to the existing 18 units at the downtown facility known as Lynn’s Place, across from Northern United Place.

The project is priced at $12 million and is slated to begin construction during the summer of 2022 with a projected completion date of spring 2023.

YWCA NWT executive director Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay is hoping that the majority of the costs are covered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) co-investment fund – a support stream that allows applicants to claim up to 75 per cent of the project. The remaining 25 per cent, Dumbuya-Sesay explained, would come from a community partner such as the GNWT or the City of Yellowknife.

“The campaign is to show our partners (GNWT, the city and CMHC) that we are truly invested in this work and so is our community,” Dumbuya-Sesay said, adding that the campaign would also fill gaps in funding in case partners are not able to cover the entire 25 per cent.

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Dumbuya-Sesay said the lack of affordable housing for families and women is at a crises level across the territory.

With transitional housing options for single men, women and youth, but few for families, she called families “the forgotten homeless in Yellowknife.”

Lynn’s Place is staffed with support workers who help clients with employment applications and in securing income support. Employees run cultural programs such as sewing circles, cooking programs, literacy activities and life skills workshops. Tenants also have access to counselling services.

Rent – $900 per month for a single unit, $1,580 for a two-bedroom and $1,750 for a three-bedroom unit – is set using CMHC affordability guidelines. Tenants can stay in the facility for up to three years.

The wait list, however, has more than 50 families.

While the YWCA provides residences to families as they become available, it’s been difficult for the organization to find additional units in the city, Dumbuya-Sesay said. There’s a shortage of landlords willing to rent to highly-vulnerable clients, she said.

The pandemic has turned a bad situation into a dire one, according to Dumbuya-Sesay, adding that Lynn’s Place 2.0 “is a long-term solution to addressing some of the current gaps that exist in our community.”

The Buy a Brick, Build a House campaign comes after a failed bid for federal Rapid Housing Initiative funding in December 2020 to support the same project.

Related: Yellowknife transitional housing facility could double in size to help families experiencing homelessness

Explaining the failure to fund Lynn’s Place 2.0 through the Rapid Housing Initiative, the CMHC said it had received a high volume of applicants and didn’t have enough funds to cover the YWCA’s ambitions despite the strong application, Dumbuya-Sesay said.

As of the morning of June 8, one day after launching, the Buy a Brick, Build a House campaign had raised over $7,000 towards its $200,000 goal.

The fundraiser is set to continue until Dec. 1.

Natalie Pressman

Reporting courts and cops and general news, Natalie started with NNSL Media in 2020. Before moving to Yellowknife, Natalie worked as a community radio trainer in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent First...

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