North

$60M housing fund for N.W.T. remains untouched

Almost two years after it was created, a $60-million federal fund created to address the dire housing situation in the Northwest Territories remains untouched. The housing corporation is just now advertising a position to assist groups in applying for the funding.

Fund created almost 2 years ago to address everything 'from homelessness to affordable home ownership'

A boarded-up public housing unit in Behchoko, N.W.T. A 2019 survey concluded that 43 per cent of dwellings in the N.W.T. are either inadequate, in need of major repairs or costing occupants more than 30 per cent of their income to operate. (Curtis Mandeville/CBC)

Almost two years after it was created, a $60-million federal fund created to address the dire housing situation in the Northwest Territories remains untouched.

In February of 2019, then Housing Minister Alfred Moses praised "the diligent work" the federal government and the NWT Housing Corporation did to secure the money, which was created as part of a national housing strategy.

"I cannot overstate the opportunity this fund gives us," said Moses. "This money will help address all aspects of housing in the Northwest Territories, from homelessness to affordable home ownership."

Using COVID-19 as a way to describe why things take longer — there just isn't an appetite for that anymore.- Caitlin Cleveland, Kam Lake MLA

The funding has to be applied for on a project-by-project basis. So far, there have been no applications. The housing corporation is now advertising a position to help Indigenous groups and others tap into the fund.

The co-investment fund will cover up to 75 per cent of the cost of building new housing or providing repairs to existing housing.

In the legislature Wednesday, Housing Minister Paulie Chinna said in the last six months, corporation officials have toured the territory with officials from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in an effort to encourage Indigenous housing groups to apply for the funding.

Housing Minister Paulie Chinna says the delay in advertising a position for someone to help people apply for the funding, is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

"I want to have this money spent, the $60 million before the end of this government, at least have applications that are committed, so we can start lobbying the federal government for an additional amount of funding," said Chinna.

Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland said MLAs agreed eight months ago that the housing corporation should be assisting with applications.

"I am a little disappointed this person isn't on the ground yet because it's someone that could have spent the last six months during [the COVID-19 pandemic] really getting projects up and running so we could get northerners working on building homes for northerners," said Cleveland.

According to a 2019 report from the NWT Bureau of Statistics, 43 per cent of dwellings in the territory have at least one housing problem, meaning they require major repairs, are too small for the number of people living in them, or require more than 30 per cent of the household's income to operate.

Chinna said the delay in advertising the position is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cleveland said people are getting tired of hearing that excuse.

"Using COVID-19 as a way to describe why things take longer — there just isn't an appetite for that anymore in the Northwest Territories, especially when it's something like... potentially hiring a local person," said the Yellowknife MLA.

Without explaining how, Chinna insisted the pandemic delayed the process.

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