The Yellowknife Women’s Society is working to transform the Arnica Inn complex into a new transitional housing unit.
Representatives of the society brought their plan to city councillors on Monday, as council must approve the building’s change of use.
In response, councillors expressed broad support.
The society hopes to create more than 40 single-occupancy units for people, saying those who are alone sometimes face “the hardest time getting into other programs.”
Nearby residents have been consulted, both City of Yellowknife staff and the Yellowknife Women’s Society said, with no significant concerns expressed.
Councillor Niels Konge said the Arnica Inn had already been used recently to provide similar short-term accommodation for workers in the city.
“I think this is really exciting,” he said.
“I am in complete support of this,” said Cllr Stacie Smith. “I think this is excellent and a big step forward.”
The society told Cabin Radio it has a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Arnica Inn’s owners, pending approval from council and acquisition of the relevant permitting.
Earlier studies have suggested well over 1,000 people access either emergency shelter or transitional housing services in Yellowknife each year.
The society believes transforming the Arnica Inn will provide up to half of the additional transitional housing City Hall had been looking at generating as part of its 10-year plan to end homelessness in Yellowknife.
“The building will provide residential transitional housing for primarily women and vulnerable men looking to build their life skills, gain employment, and potentially move toward private market rental housing,” read a briefing note provided by City administrators to councillors.
“The creation of a transitional housing resource on a single site in Yellowknife will increase the security and support available to tenants and represent a major step in the Yellowknife Women’s Society’s capacity to help address homelessness in the city.
“Based on the project information submitted by the society there is shortage of affordable bachelor or one-bedroom units within the private or public housing market within the city.
“Conversion of the Arnica Inn into transitional housing will result in 42 bachelor units available to people in need of housing.”
Transitional housing is temporary accommodation designed to help people from homelessness to permanent housing.
Considered a longer-term service than an emergency shelter, residents are generally expected to use transitional housing for between three months and three years.
No timeline for the hotel’s conversion into such units was provided at Monday’s meeting of the City’s governance and priorities committee.
Councillors must still officially approve the use at a full council meeting, though that is considered a formality, and the plans must then go through the usual permitting process.
Yellowknife lost one of its larger transitional housing facilities in late 2018, when 33 family units in the Rockhill complex burned down.
Brewpub seeks council approval
Also on Monday, Yellowknife’s brewpub owners asked council for permission to convert a nearby building into a brewery.
NWT Brewing Co is looking to transform its storage building near the intersection of Franklin Avenue and School Draw Avenue into a brewing operation, which again requires council approval before going through the usual permitting stages.
The building won’t offer any food or drinks services to customers, and so won’t be an expansion of the current Woodyard brewpub located a short walk down Franklin Avenue.
However, it does offer plumbed water for brewing – which owner Fletcher Stevens said would be “a complete game-changer [and] will make life much, much easier” during a short appearance before councillors on Monday.