Feds commit $23M to Spruce Bough and Lynn’s Place II projects
Two Yellowknife-based housing projects have been selected to receive a significant injection of cash from the federal government to create affordable housing for people at risk.
On Monday, the federal government announced the YWCA NWT would receive $12.5 million for its new affordable 21-unit housing project for women and children, Lynn’s Place II, through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, and another $5 million through the Rapid Housing Initiative. Construction on the building began this spring and is expected to be completed by July 2023.
At the same time, it was announced the Yellowknife Women’s Society would receive $6 million through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund for renovations and upgrades to Spruce Bough, a 42-bachelor unit complex for at-risk men and women.
Those who run Spruce Bough (formerly the Arnica Inn) and Lynn’s Place II have been searching for a way to continue offering their unique programming for years.
Ahmed Hussen, federal housing minister, flew in from Ottawa to make the announcement. During his address at a news conference, he explained why resources like Spruce Bough and Lynn’s Place II have such a critical role in addressing homelessness.
“Residents will have access to the critical wraparound support services that are needed to thrive,” said Hussen. “These supports, like staff and programming, are equally important as the housing. When completed, these buildings won’t just be a refuge or safe place, but they’ll actually allow the individuals that stay there to rebuild their lives.”
In total, the funding will support construction and renovations of 63 units of public supportive housing between the two buildings.
Lynn’s Place II, which is currently under construction on 54th Street next to the original Lynn’s Place, will offer an additional units of emergency and transitional housing to those in need. Each unit will cost no more than 30 percent of each resident’s income.
The project is also supported by funding from Housing NWT and a $1 million contribution from the YWCA itself.
Lynn’s Place II is just a temporary name for the building – the new name will be announced at the opening ceremony next summer.
Spruce Bough, currently undergoing the renovations and improvements covered by this funding, is still in actively operating but under capacity to allow for work to continue.
“We’ve been trying to make things comfortable, to feel like home,” said Jayson Quesada, Spruce Bough general manager. “When people first get here, they can feel homesick. So we try to create a sense of community.”
“The program has 24-hour staffing, regular meals onsite, as well as cleaning and maintenance,” said Carla Smith, the director of finance for the Yellowknife Women’s Society.
The facility, which still offers its groundbreaking managed alcohol and harm reduction program, one of the first such programs in the territory, also helps residents with accessing work opportunities and income assistance, rides to health appointments, and other supports and accommodations.
Spruce Bough’s programming has transitioned to a fee-based system – during Covid, their programming was fully covered by government funding, but now, their managed alcohol program will cost no more than $1,234 per month, based on income.
“While income assistance does cover this fee in some cases, people like Elders don’t qualify,” said Quesada. “We’re working with public health to see if we can address this, because it’s definitely a barrier to us accommodating more people.”
That said, Spruce Bough already has a waitlist for those looking to access the program.
The atmosphere in the room, especially for those who made up the organizations benefitting from funding, was of a palpable sense of gratitude at seeing Yellowknife take a step forward in an area where it has felt so stuck.
“Without this generous funding support, this project could not have succeeded,” said Smith. “We’d like to thank the NWT Housing Corporation (now Housing NWT), the generous contribution from the Arnica Inn’s previous owners, and the GNWT’s continued support.”
Construction at the Spruce Bough is projected to wrap up by this December.