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Housing

NWT insists $60M federal housing fund will soon start being spent


The NWT government this week attempted to clarify why $60 million set aside by the federal government for housing builds and repairs in the territory has not yet been spent.

Housing minister Paulie Chinna said the application process “could and should be better” and highlighted what her government was doing to ensure the money is spent in a timely manner.

Chinna said the territory is negotiating with the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or CMHC, to cut the application processing time in half.

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What’s happening to the $60 million – a roped-off share of a larger national fund, designated purely for the NWT’s housing crisis – was investigated by Cabin Radio in early November.

That investigation found neither the CMHC nor the NWT government could adequately explain why money set aside for the NWT had not yet been handed out.

Some applicants have been getting money, just not from the roped-off $60-million share of the fund. The NWT has so far accessed more than $42 million from the broader national fund to build or repair more than 150 units.

Applicants described the process of trying to get money from the fund as complex, to the point where consultants have been hired simply to help finish applications.

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The national fund is a co-investment fund, which means applicants have to have a co-investor on board. That co-investor is often the territorial government, represented by the NWT Housing Corporation.

Earlier this month, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said the GNWT will find an extra $5 million in each of the next three years the housing corporation can commit to co-investing in more projects.

An employee in a newly created position will also help communities and groups with their applications.

How many applications are in?

Confusion about the fund persists despite attempts by the NWT government to clarify the situation this week.

For example, approached by Cabin Radio last month, CMHC said two applications to the fund from NWT groups were under review as of September 30.

In her statement this week, Chinna bumped up that number, saying there are “over a dozen projects within the NWT that are at various stages of review” – suggesting more than 10 applications were submitted in the past two months.

Asked for clarification on Thursday, CMHC spokesperson Leonard Catling refused to comment on the number of applications currently under review, saying he had already provided a written statement more than a month ago and didn’t want to comment on another government body any further.

Up till now, applications have waited around a year to be processed by CMHC according to the territorial government. The expectation is that in future, that wait time will be cut to around six months.

In her statement this week, Chinna said she was confident that “significant housing projects” would go forward in 2021 as a result of the NWT’s work with the federal fund.

“For anyone that is looking for information or requires assistance in applying, please reach out,” Chinna said.

“We want to help. We want to see our residents in homes. Together we can see significant housing projects develop throughout the NWT.”

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