Yellowknife appears closer to applying for money from the federal Rapid Housing Initiative, which could provide up to $25 million for affordable housing.
Councillors this week instructed staff to draw up an application for the funding, following a discussion last month at which they heard the money – while sorely needed – must be used quickly.
If an application is successful, getting the work done would mean delays to other major projects like a replacement water line, expansion of Kam Lake, and a new aquatic centre.
City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett said in November that while new housing would bring many benefits, the city has limited resources and “a couple of massive projects under way.”
The deadline to apply is December 31.
While staff have been asked to fill out the application form, it remains unclear whether final authority to submit that application has been given. The city, asked on Tuesday whether that was the case, had not clarified the matter by Thursday afternoon.
City staff say money from the Rapid Housing Initiative would help advance the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, which was introduced in 2017.
According to the plan, Yellowknife needs 80 new units of permanent supportive housing – something the Rapid Housing Initiative funding could help to create.
Mayor Rebecca Alty previously said council would find out in the first few months of 2021 if any application had been successful.
Separately, Yellowknife continues to study ways of spending more than $1.5 million from another federal fund designed to assist people experiencing homelessness.
The money, from the Reaching Home fund, must be spent by March 31, 2021.
That means choosing a project to invest in is urgent, but councillors have been holding off on an initial plan to spend the money on 20 new overnight beds for individuals, 10 rooms for families, and coverage of some rental arrears and rent support.
Instead, councillors formally chose on Monday to search for ways to spend the money on more permanent solutions.
Alty will reach out to the federal government to ask for an extension to spend the funds. The mayor will also ask Canada to see whether any federal properties in Yellowknife could be turned into affordable housing.
Alty previously said she wanted to leave “no stone unturned” before committing the funding, to ensure the money was spent as effectively as possible.