The federal government on Wednesday announced an investment of $4.9 million to help Tulita house up to 16 adults in eight modular homes.
Six units will meet the needs of Elders and other community members. The remaining two units will be set aside for emergency housing, said the Northwest Territories’ Liberal MP, Michael McLeod.
Mayor of Tulita Douglas Yallee, interim senior administrative officer Don Smeltzer, and territorial housing minister Paulie Chinna also spoke at a news conference on Wednesday.
“As someone who grew up in a small community, I know first-hand the difference this level of investment can make,” said Chinna.
“Today’s investment definitely is good news, but the housing needs in the Northwest Territories are still significant.”
Mayor Yallee said he had heard of Tulita residents waiting up to five years to get a house.
“It’s something that needs to happen,” he said of the new housing.
“In my community, there’s too many people living in one house – it’s overcrowded.”
The funding will be delivered by the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, a program offered by the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The fund supports construction of mixed-use affordable housing through low-cost loans and is part of Canada’s National Housing Strategy.
The $60 million “carve-out” set aside for the NWT from the broader fund is meant to support 126 new affordable housing units in the territory. The money will be administered in two chunks, with $25.5 million going to the NWT Housing Corporation and the remaining $34.5 million going directly to Indigenous governments and organizations.
The territory has previously drawn criticism over its deployment of the fund. Some NWT housing projects were denied federal funding in March, seemingly because the territory failed to touch the $60 million for over a year.
MP McLeod said another NWT project supported by the same fund is nearing completion and will be announced shortly, though he gave no specific timeline. He said the application process for each project can take “several months” to complete.
The territory is in a housing crisis that has intensified in recent years and appears set to further worsen following flood damage to dozens of homes this spring, particularly in the Dehcho region.
Mayor Yallee said though the Tulita project will bring “some housing for some people,” the new units alone are far from enough to solve the community’s housing problem.
“There needs to be more done, but it’s helpful – I’ll just put it that way,” he said.
Officials did not provide a start date for construction.