A plan to transform a Yellowknife hotel into transitional housing, thought to have been sunk by an argument over funding, is at last going ahead.
On Friday, the Yellowknife Women’s Society said it had signed a deal with the owners of the Arnica Inn that will see the Franklin Avenue building turned into more than 40 units of accommodation.
The agreement had fallen through in February after the society failed to receive $4 million in funding from the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). At the time, the society and Yellowknife’s mayor blamed the NWT Housing Corporation for failing to adequately back the project. The corporation denied that was the case.
Bree Denning – the society’s executive director – told Cabin Radio CMHC had now provided a letter stating the society is working to meet the requirements for funding.
With that letter, the Arnica Inn’s owners have agreed to a deferred payment arrangement. The society now has until next year to raise the final sum for the building’s purchase.
The agreement allows the society to proceed at once with its transitional housing project.
“We will take possession of the building and then we have that full year to get the CMHC [requirements] ironed out and the agreement in place with the GNWT,” Denning said.
“The owners have been so generous. I think they know that Tony Chang really cared about the community and they want to see [the building] go to this purpose. They’ve been amazing.”
Tony Chang, who died in 2015, was a prominent property developer in Yellowknife and a number of southern provinces. The TC Group of Companies holds the Arnica Inn, YK Chrysler, Boston Pizza, and a number of apartment buildings in Yellowknife.
Denning said CMHC has been more willing to work with the society in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The society’s priority is now housing vulnerable people who are more at risk of Covid-19.
“I think [Covid-19] made things move along a lot more quickly,” she said. “It’s great to see that happening and hopefully we can keep the momentum going once this is all back to normal.”
Transitional housing is one of the first steps in helping people move from homelessness into permanent housing, offering residents somewhere to stay for anywhere from three months to three years.
Yellowknife lost a number of transitional homes when a fire destroyed the Rockhill apartment complex in 2018.