The NWT Disabilities Council is working to create a Yellowknife building that offers accessible housing for people with disabilities.
The project, in its early stages, will be located at the old Rockhill Apartments site on 54 Avenue in Yellowknife. The site was home to a YWCA family housing complex that burned down in an October 2018 fire.
The new building will incorporate businesses, services and homes. Some units will be affordable housing while others will be priced at market value.
NWT Disabilities Council executive director Denise McKee said the building will be one of the first of its kind in the NWT. She hopes it will “create a benchmark” across Canada to show “what is possible for people with disabilities.”
According to McKee, up to 9,000 people in the NWT have a form of disability and may need accommodation tailored to their needs – something the territory severely lacks, she says.
“There’s been a definitive deficit for people living with disabilities in the Northwest Territories. It’s not just with visible and mobility issues, but also non-visible issues,” McKee said.
Project partners are the NWT Housing Corporation and De Beers Group, which has contributed $1 million. McKee said the project also has “a very strong commitment” from the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
McKee says the NWT must work to become more accessible and create space for people with disabilities to live in their own communities, rather than forcing people to head south for necessary supports.
“The dislocation of individuals with disabilities has been kind-of a normal practice within the Northwest Territories,” she said.
“We have to be able to see people. When we consistently dislocate people that present differently or have a disability, whether it be visible or non-visible, we never see diverse communities.”
McKee feels many building projects in the territory “go for the minimum accessibility requirements.”
This project will do the opposite, she said. “We don’t want this to be a box where there’s no other choice.”