NWT Housing Corporation president Tom Williams inspects rooms at the renovated Yellowknife emergency women's shelter in December 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The NWT Housing Corporation says 12 of its new, highly anticipated community plans are close to being finalized.
Housing has been in crisis across the territory for years, with many communities reporting high numbers of inadequate, unsuitable, or overcrowded homes.
Community plans are designed to set out a roadmap for addressing that crisis. They involve the corporation working with communities to identify ways of attracting funding and the needs that must urgently be met.
Whatì was the first community to complete its housing plan. Fort Liard, Enterprise, the Kátł’odeeche First Nation, and Paulatuk are expected to be next in line.
Tom Williams, the housing corporation’s president, said those three communities are in the final engagement stage before their plans can be published.
“Our goal is to have all 33 plans done in the life of this government,” said Williams, referring to the total number of NWT communities.
“We have about 10 or 12 that have gone through and are close to final … we’re very close on a number of others that there will be some announcements on shortly.
“We’re just needing to have the community meeting to finalize them [and] Enterprise is one of those.”
Enterprise began work on its strategy in March 2019.
Williams said some of the work required to finalize that plan had been put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, he said, Enterprise is set to identify the need for seniors’ housing and affordable rental units as its priorities. A public meeting will seek community agreement for the finalized plan.
“The community housing plans are going to inform future investment and infrastructure investment across the North,” said Williams. “Every community has different needs. Some might be seniors, some might be needing more houses, some might need more repair programs. But it’s different from community to community.”
More community involvement
In March this year, the GNWT released a three-year action plan that looks to spend $27.6 million in federal and territorial funding on public housing.
The three overarching priorities of that plan are maintaining and increasing the number of homes, repairing or replacing existing homes, and bolstering homeownership repair programs.
In the 10 years between 2018 and 2028, nearly $140 million is due to be invested in NWT housing under a cost-share agreement signed two years ago between the NWT and Ottawa.
The housing corporation hopes to bring approximately 100 new homes into the territory’s market over the next four years, Williams said.
“Those necessarily may not be public housing, because we’re kind-of stuck on our funding that we get from the federal government on that,” he said.
“There’s a big push to get more engagement from our Indigenous governments and other private-sector entities to … be part of the housing solution in their community, and we’re starting to see a lot of traction on that.”
At the Salt River First Nation, Williams said by way of example, a number of housing units have gone into the community in the past three years and more are coming.
“We have delivered four houses where we provided the material package and the band provided the land and labour,” he said.
“We’re looking at doing another two more units with Salt River. We’re getting more [involvement] on communities coming up with their own housing solutions, and we’re able to help fund those on a cost-share basis.”