The NWT Housing Corporation’s boss praised the Dene Nation for seeking direct federal funding to improve housing, saying all levels of government must present “one strong voice” to bring in more money.
Housing in the territory is in crisis, with four out of 10 NWT homes reporting some form of problem. The housing corporation is responsible for many of the territory’s houses, particularly in smaller communities, but by no means all.
Last week, Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya announced he would approach Ottawa to seek cash for improvements to Dene homes.
In a statement, the Dene Nation said 27 Dene communities face “inappropriate housing design, no local or regional housing management capacity, and a severe lack of affordable, adequate, appropriate, sustainable, and quality housing.”
Yakeleya said he intended to “obtain funding and implement a multi-year strategy” to correct the situation.
On Friday, Tom Williams – president and chief executive of the NWT Housing Corporation – said his organization backed the Dene Nation’s demand for funding.
“We need all levels of government involved in housing, including Indigenous governments,” said Williams, speaking during a tour of a renovated women’s shelter in Yellowknife.
“They say money is not the answer for everything but, in terms of housing, unfortunately, it is,” Williams continued.
“The more capital you have, the more we could do. So we’re very happy and we look forward to partnering with the Dene Nation – and the other Indigenous governments – to bring some more Indigenous housing money to the North.”
The housing corporation has come in for recent criticism from some community leaders, who say the corporation’s policies are proving unworkable on the ground and holding up much-needed renovation and maintenance.
Williams, however, says the housing corporation is doing what it can and looking at ways to help private homeowners. For example, Williams told NNSL (paywall), the corporation is looking at asking its local representatives to act as a form of hardware store for residents of small communities, who may otherwise struggle to find adequate supplies at a reasonable price.
Williams said the Dene Nation’s stated intent to acquire direct federal funding probably came from ideas developed at a housing summit in Inuvik earlier this year.
“There was agreement there, with all the leaders, that we have to work together and have one strong voice going to Ottawa to get more funding up here for Indigenous housing,” said Williams.
“I’m glad the Dene Nation has stepped forward. It’s all incremental funding that’s coming to the North and it’ll allow us to tackle the problem.”
Meanwhile, the housing corporation is continuing to seek corporate partners for projects. The women’s shelter Williams toured on Friday was renovated in part thanks to mining giant Anglo American, owner of De Beers, which donated $250,000 and a project manager.
“We hope some of the other corporate entities come forward,” said Williams. “We’re reaching out to everybody and certainly, getting the corporate side of things involved in providing affordable housing is huge. So we really appreciate De Beers stepping up to the plate.”