The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation was “entirely incorrect” when it blamed NWT Housing Corporation for the failure of the Arnica Inn housing project, according to Housing Minister Paulie Chinna.

In fact, the housing corp. is in support of Yellowknife Women’s Society’s Plan to convert the motel into 42 units of transitional housing, Chinna wrote in letters tabled in the legislative assembly on Wednesday. Those letters also noted CMHC’s concerns, including long term viability and affordability, as barriers to the plan.

Previously, the society’s executive director Bree Denning said CMHC pulled out because housing corp. declined to back the project.

The society was requesting $4 million from CMHC and $660,000 from the NWT Housing Corporation to push the project forward.

To Mayor Rebecca Alty, however, it all appeared to be “finger-pointing back and forth.”

“It’s just showing … that GNWT and the federal government need to work on their process,” she said in an interview Thursday morning.

Chinna, in another interview Thursday, maintained that NWT Housing Corporation wasn’t responsible for federal funding, and that the project was CMHC’s responsibility.

“No application was sent over to the housing corporation. We weren’t involved in the application process. We don’t determine whether the application will be approved or denied, that is something decided by CMHC,” she said.

Housing Minister Paula Chinna seen in Legistlative Assembly this month.
Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

She also emphasized that housing corp. wasn’t there to completely fund the project, but rather to act as a support.

Asked about the 300-day turnaround required to resubmit an application to CMHC— long after the society’s end of March deadline to purchase the motel — Chinna again encouraged the society to resubmit its application.

“Funding is not sourced through GNWT. I would strongly advise the applicant to go through CMHC,” she said, adding that the society should keep housing corp. informed.

She also acknowledged “room for improvement” on program delivery and communication between the housing corporation and CMHC.

’13th hour’ meeting

Chinna has also committed to gathering all the parties for a meeting before the end of the week.

In that meeting, Mayor Alty hopes the parties can resolve the issue before the end of March, when the society will hit its deadline and will no longer be able to purchase the motel. It’s a lesson, she said, in the importance of communicating and “not waiting until after the 13th hour to jump in and show … support.”

She said she wanted the meeting to establish clear actions, timelines and steps that would improve this process in the future.

Denning, in an interview Wednesday, said it was “baffling” to hear the minister’s requests for the society to get in touch. The society has been in regular contact with NWT Housing Corp. about the project for almost a year, she said.

Moving forward, she outlined two paths forward to save the project.

The first is the territorial government asking CMHC to reverse its decision. However, Chinna has avoided saying as much in public statements this week, and downplayed the option in a letter sent to Denning on Tuesday.

“(NWT Housing Corporation) will not confirm any amount of participation or contribution into the project until the federal government has done due diligence on all other components that it requires,” she wrote in the letter.

The second part is the government providing bridge funding to tune of about $2 million that would allow the society to purchase the motel, buying it enough time to reapply with CMHC, which has a 300-day turnaround for re-submissions.

Of the two, Alty said it was “tough to say” which might come to pass. With the territorial government’s now supporting the project, Alty said she only hoped the housing corp. worked hard to reach a resolution.

“If you’re going to sit and be passive, not in the driver’s seat, then we’re going to miss the federal funding,” she said.

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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