Responding to a question from Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Richard Edjericon, NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane has now given the clearest breakdown yet of how the latest $60 million is being spent.
In a letter to Edjericon dated June 8 but made public last week, Cochrane says that $60 million resulted – in part – in 20 extra homes for the territory.
Exactly how much of the $60 million went on those 20 homes is not clear. In the recent past, government announcements have suggested new homes are costing authorities around half a million dollars apiece, but no figures are given in Cochrane’s letter.
The 20 extra units were bought with part of the first $30-million payment, and were “for rural and remote communities throughout the NWT,” Cochrane wrote, with 10 units “specifically designed for seniors and persons with limited mobility.”
That first payment also covered some or all of:
a biomass district heating system at a seniors’ complex;
replacement of ageing fuel tanks;
development of community housing plans;
training and apprenticeships for local housing organizations; and
various repair projects.
In all, the $60 million is paying for 116 “major modernization and improvement projects” to repair existing housing. The latest $30-million chunk, being spent this year, is also going toward “replacement of 17 public housing units that reached the end of their design/operating service life,” Cochrane wrote.
In other words, the $60 million bought 20 extra homes but is also helping to replace 17 homes no longer fit for purpose and shore up 116 that would otherwise further degrade. (There are around 2,400 public housing units in the NWT.)
Precisely how much of each project was funded with the federal cash is not made clear. Generally, funding arrangements with the federal government involve Ottawa contributing 75 percent and the GNWT 25 percent, but that figure has varied lately and some projects have been entirely covered by federal funds.
The latest $30-million payment is also being used on a second biomass project at another seniors’ complex and various smaller repair jobs, alongside training and development.
Increasingly, the federal government has dealt directly with Indigenous governments to provide funds for northern housing. The $60-million deal with Housing NWT is therefore not representative of every public housing project under way in the territory, and the fine detail of agreements with Indigenous governments is not available.
Even the NWT government said it wasn’t sure how much federal cash has come into the territory through other governments, because it isn’t always privy to those deals.
Cochrane estimated the figure for those deals is around $270 million, spread over periods of four to seven years, and possibly rising to more than $300 million once rapid housing initiatives are included.