More Yellowknife applicants expressed disappointment in the Rapid Housing Initiative funding announcements this week especially as some major projects required last minute scrambling and heavy expenses to apply before the Dec. 31 deadline.

On March 22, the GNWT and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced a $60 million “northern carve-out” of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) National Housing Co-Investment Fund to help build and repair housing for the GNWT and Indigenous governments across the territory.

Bill Enge, president of the North Slave Metis Alliance, pictured here in 2019.
NNSL file photo

This took the place of a federal rapid housing funding which many organizations across the North applied for last November and December.

Leonard Catling, a CMHC media spokesperson refused to say in an email this week how many NWT rapid housing projects had been applied for and how many were rejected.

“To protect the confidentiality of our partners and proponents, information regarding applications or potential projects cannot be released publicly until we have a signed agreement with the proponent and a public announcement takes place,” he stated.

Because the federal government’s National Co-investment Fund had sat unspent since 2018, money was drawn from the Co-investment fund to support some of the proposed NWT rapid housing initiative project applications.

The proposal was to reflect the first phase of a 22 unit complex to would house up to 44 seniors.

He said as an aboriginal group, it was frustrating seeing that the Yellowknives Dene First Nation received funding for units in Ndilo and Dettah.

He added that the Metis Council of Canada entered a $500 million agreement over 10 years but that his organization is not affiliated with that Metis organization so NSMA can’t apply.

“The NSMA was very disappointed that our rapid housing proposal was dead before it even arrived,” he said. “We were invited by Minister Paulie Chinna back in November to apply for rapid housing initiative funding and nobody knew that the proposal wouldn’t stand a chance.

A schematic design of the North Slave Metis Alliance’s 12-unit multi-storey seniors and Elders housing would have added needed affordable housing for aging Indigenous people in Yellowknife’s downtown core. It was widely endorsed by several organizations including the NWT Housing Corporation and the City of Yellowknife.
NNSL file photo

“The NWT housing corporation is sitting on $60 million in National Co-investment Fund money and we went to great deal of time and effort to submit a proposal on a tight time frame because we had to have our proposals in by Dec. 31. That was a Herculean challenge because we probably had about five weeks to get it in.

“I can tell you the NSMA has never received one cent from the Housing Corporation for any funding to help its members in this community and it is really frustrating that the Metis are left out of any kind of allocations coming from both federal and territorial governments.”

Enge estimated he spent tens of thousands towards the proposal that included assembling engineers, hiring legal and environmental consultants and architects, and securing the option on the land and pricing it. The NWT Housing Corporation funded about 45 percent of this effort.

NNSL Media obtained a number of letters expressing endorsement for the NSMA project including from Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories.

“As the local Member of Parliament, I am extending my strong support for the North Slave Metis Alliances’ funding application to CMHC, he wrote.

McLeod noted an expected 467 shortfall of housing for seniors and Elders with a core housing need in Yellowknife’s 20,234 population alone.

Other similar letters of endorsement came from Mark Heyck, executive director of Arctic Energy Alliance who supported the project for its energy efficiency and Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty for the project’s ability to address the city’s need for seniors affordable housing.

Alty stated that more than 400 seniors and Elders housing are required for Yellowknife before 2028.

Even Tom Williams, president and CEO of the NWT Housing Corporation supported the project.

“The Government of the Northwest Territories extends its strong support for the North Slave Metis Alliances’ funding application to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to develop highly sustainable and accessible affordable seniors and Elders housing,” Williams wrote in a Dec. 21 letter to CMHC. .

Enge said he intends to follow up with the GNWT cabinet and the Minister of Housing on the issue.

YWCA

The YWCA also submitted a proposal to establish family housing following the 2018 Rockhill fire. At that time, 33 families were left homeless when the 39-suite Rockhill apartment complex on 54 Avenue was destroyed.

YWCA executive director Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay said this week that not getting approval was a major setback. She had been aiming to have support for a 21-unit, $15 million housing shelter for families and children that would add to her organization’s transitional housing for women at Lynn’s Place. She is currently working with government officials to reapply through a separate funding stream.

“We were very disappointed because we had put in the time and work that needed to get the application done and there is a real serious issue of family homelessness in the North.”

She said as of this week, there has been a waiting list for 52 families seeking shelter.

“With Covid-19 and people losing their jobs and with breakdowns in families, more are coming forward for help with homelessness,” she said. “I don’t think (the government is) getting the true reality of family homelessness”

Dumbuya-Sesay said the sizes of the families can vary so it is hard to pin down a count on individuals impacted.

Katrina Nokleby, MLA for Great Slave said she wasn’t greatly in-tune with the specifics of the Yellowknife housing projects but said that it was noticeable that urban areas of the territories didn’t receive funding. She said that with building and material costs that appear to be increasing since Covid-19 and a short window before the winter roads close to many remote communities, she is skeptical that a lot of the NWT rapid housing projects will even get done.

“If you look at it none of the projects are in Yellowknife or Hay River and while I’m not saying small communities don’t need funding, it would make sense to fund where it is easy to build,” she said.

“Not specific to my riding, but in general we lack affordable housing and housing stock across the NWT. Overall if we can get more people in homes then a lot of the social issues would start to clear up and with addictions it would be the easiest way to make progress.”

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