Northview's Yellowknife residential office is seen in April 2020. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The federal Green Party is preparing a fresh campaign to toughen legislation governing big companies that dominate the Canadian rental landscape the way Northview does in the NWT.
The vast majority of rental housing in the likes of Yellowknife and Inuvik, including some public units and a large share of the private sector, is controlled by Northview, which in turn is owned by southern real estate investment firms Kingsett Capital and Starlight.
Visiting Yellowknife last week, Green Party deputy leader Jonathan Pedneault told Cabin Radio his party would pursue fresh measures to target “unacceptable” rental monopolies.
Mike Morrice, the Green MP for Kitchener Centre, has already proposed ending tax exemptions for companies like Northview, which are known as real estate investment trusts or REITs.
The Green Party says the Parliamentary Budget Office has forecast that Morrice’s proposal would “generate between $285.8 million and $670.2 million over the next five years to be invested in affordable housing” if passed.
Pedneault said the party wants to go further and plans an announcement in the near future.
“In this city, you’ve got one actor that owns roughly 80 percent of the rental housing stock. It’s a monopoly and it’s unacceptable, and this is one of the things that we’re fighting hard against in Ottawa,” Pedneault said, referring to Yellowknife.
“We’re going to be coming up with proposals that are even bolder than the one that my colleague is now proposing … I think we will probably very soon be going even further.”
NWT MLAs have repeatedly called for action to reduce Northview’s hold on the northern rental market, and the territorial government’s recent purchase of the Nordic Arms building in Yellowknife was described partly as a measure to shift some people out of Northview leases. (More than 100 Northview units are leased by the territory for use as public housing.)
No timeline was given for the announcement of a new Green proposal targeting that kind of monopoly, nor any further detail.
Any Green initiative will need to attract the support of multiple parties, given the Greens hold only two seats in the House of Commons.
Pedneault, defending the chances of a Green proposal gaining traction in those circumstances, pointed to issues like climate change and cannabis legalization as topics on which he said Greens led the way before their stance was more broadly adopted.
Describing himself as a former resident of Svalbard, the Norwegian Arctic island chain, Pedneault said last week’s visit to Yellowknife was his first to a territory.
He met with Premier Caroline Cochrane and representatives of Yellowknife City Council, among others.
“The North is, in many ways, what we have best in this country,” Pedneault said, “and we need to protect it and take care of the people who live here.”