Justin Trudeau speaks in Yellowknife on October 12, 2023. Simona Rosenfield/Cabin Radio
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says 50 new affordable housing units will be built in downtown Yellowknife.
Trudeau’s Thursday announcement, in Yellowknife’s Somba K’e Park, capped his first public visit to the Northwest Territories since 2017.
Earlier in the week, he toured wildfire-hit South Slave communities and spoke with local leaders. The visit was rounding off on Thursday afternoon with a discussion involving Yellowknife’s chamber of commerce.
The new apartment complex will be built on 50 Street, occupying city-owned lots that have lain vacant opposite Centre Square Mall for years.
“The cost of rent has been going up. Vacancy rates are very low,” Trudeau said. “The people who are of course hardest-hit by this lack of supply are vulnerable people, including seniors, Indigenous peoples and those experiencing homelessness.”
The project, featuring a mix of bachelor suites and two-bedroom apartments, will provide housing for seniors, small families and vulnerable residents.
The City of Yellowknife has donated the land, which officials said equates to an $825,000 contribution. The federal government is investing $20.8 million from the Rapid Housing Initiative, and the NWT government will provide operational funding.
“This announcement is a great example of federal, territorial and municipal governments working together to address the housing crisis here in the Northwest Territories,” said Paulie Chinna, the NWT’s housing minister, adding that the project helped address the territory’s mandate to create more affordable housing.
The Rapid Housing Initiative has funded two other recent Yellowknife housing projects: a YWCA NWT project and Aspen Apartments, which is turning old federal units into affordable homes.
Combined, the three housing projects are expected to add 107 affordable units to the market in Yellowknife.
Yellowknife’s mayor, Rebecca Alty, said federal funding had supported the addition of 262 units to the city in the past three years.
“It’s so needed in our city and in our territory,” Alty said, adding that the latest project “will also contribute to Yellowknife’s downtown revitalization.”
The 50 Street lots to be used for the new apartment complex have been on the market for years without any significant interest. The closest they came to any recent sustained use was when northern non-profit Ecology North turned them into a pop-up park for two summers in 2019 and 2020.
Alty now wants the partnership touted by officials on Thursday to continue.
“It’s my hope that we can formalize a working group with the new territorial government,” she said, referring to next month’s territorial election, “and continue this work together to address our pressing housing needs.”