Enterprise is the latest NWT community to finalize its housing plan, focusing on reviving its ageing housing stock, establishing more units for seniors, and making homes better and more affordable for residents.
The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is working on housing plans for each community in the NWT. Once complete, they should make it easier to identify housing solutions and get funding. Paulatuk and Whatí are the other two communities with completed plans thus far.
Speaking to Cabin Radio in 2020, Enterprise’s senior administrator said the community’s plan should focus on establishing more seniors’ housing and affordable housing. A 2019 housing survey showed 50 percent of households in Enterprise had issues with affordability, suitability or adequacy.
There are around 130 people living in Enterprise in about 40 households, according to the new housing plan. The vast majority of housing in the community is privately owned or rented, with just one unit owned by the housing corporation that is in the process of being given to the hamlet.
About 75 percent of people in the hamlet own their homes. There is no subsidized housing in the community, according to the plan.
Twenty households said their homes needed repairs, while nine said costs associated with housing like rent, fuel, water, and electricity were hard to pay for.
“Community members talked about home repair challenges and unaffordability, particularly with high rents and expensive utilities,” the plan states. “Some mentioned it was cheaper to go south for the winter than to live in Enterprise all year round.”
“To help with affordability, people suggested investing in more units that are smaller and more affordable or introducing government funding with a fixed rent.”
Issues in homes include mould and pest infestations. Like other communities across the territory, the plan says permafrost thaw could also have an impact on infrastructure and housing in Enterprise.
Issues with land ownership, rental options
Uncertainty around land leases and lack of ownership prevents some residents from downsizing to more affordable units.
“Over the years, there has been misunderstandings and lack of communication between residents and the GNWT over land leases. Many residents have equity leases that were understood to follow a rent-to-own model but have yet to see anyone own the land despite a government initiative to move this forward,” the plan says.
“Residents want the ability to own their land in fee simple title because this creates buyer certainty when selling their homes and simplifies access to financing.”
The plan says the hamlet has recently acquired some fee simple land that can be sold to residents. It says, however, as those lots are sold it may “create an inequity in the community” as current homeowners aren’t able to own their land, but new owners can.
Renters in the community face other challenges, as there is a lack of housing for single people and young families, and it’s expensive. The average monthly shelter cost for homeowners in Enterprise is $717 while renters pay about $1,204.
“The lack of affordable rental options causes people to leave the community and is a barrier for attracting young professionals and families,” the plan says.
Housing programs are also hard to access in Enterprise, something that has also been an issue in other NWT communities.
Between 2006 and 2019, just 32 applications for the housing corporation’s programs were approved and carried out in Enterprise. Fourteen were declined, one cancelled, five incomplete, and eight withdrawn. Information on four applications was not stated.
The main reasons applications were denied was because people didn’t make enough money or made too much money to qualify; applicants had bad credit, high debt, or owed arrears; or there were budget limitations.
More seniors, job opportunities
Enterprise’s population is projected to slightly decline by five people in the next 13 years. The age of its population, however, is expected to drastically change with 32 new seniors in the next decade, increasing the need for a seniors’ living centre.
“Two market/affordable units per year are needed to meet the future needs,” the plan says.
Meanwhile, a proposed new pellet mill in Enterprise has the potential to create new jobs and put the community at “the forefront of a clean energy project” to help reduce heating bills while cutting emissions.
“With the proposed pellet mill, there is an opportunity to provide rental options for workers and other residents,” the plan says. “Having affordable rental options can help keep people in the community and attract young professionals and families.”
The plan says the community also has “sufficient surveyed titled land for a mix of land uses up to 5,000 people.” The community currently has 68 developed residential lots, with 16 that are vacant and five “partially vacant.”
In the future, the hamlet will take the lead on two main priorities: establishing a seniors’ housing complex and creating affordable options for renters.
Other areas the plan says need work include establishing a variety of housing styles, ensuring residents can access housing programs, creating more opportunities for homeownership, and making homes more energy efficient.