North

MLA seeks answers for 18 people still homeless after Hay River highrise fire

It has been more than two months since the highrise in Hay River, N.W.T., caught on fire, displacing around 150 people.

Housing minister cites progress, says government is working on multi-stage plan

The fire broke out on the 11th floor of the Hay River highrise on March 15, 2019. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

More than two months after a highrise caught on fire in Hay River, N.W.T., 18 people are still homeless, according to MLA R.J. Simpson.

About 150 people were displaced after a fire broke out on the 11th floor of the 17-storey Mackenzie Place highrise on March 15. The building has not been occupied since, after officials cited "extensive damage" that may have affected the building's structural integrity.

"Eighteen people are homeless. I know for a fact that one is an infant — there could be other children as well," said Simpson, MLA for Hay River North, during question period at the Legislative Assembly on Friday.

Simpson demanded answers from N.W.T. Housing Minister Alfred Moses.

R.J. Simpson, MLA for Hay River North, pressed Housing Minister Alfred Moses on when some of his constituents can expect to be housed. (CBC)

"I can't go back to Hay River and tell them there's been talks. I need to tell them there's a plan to put them in a home and give them somewhere safe." 

Simpson said about a third of the tenants living in the highrise were on income assistance. While not officially in public housing, those people were on the waiting list for housing as the government subsidized their rent, according to Simpson.

'We still have to … find solutions': Minister

Moses said the government is working with the town, private industry and the K'atlodeeche First Nation on a "multi-stage plan" to support residents.

Simpson pressed Moses on what that plan entails.

Moses explained that there's a shortage of housing and available land in Hay River. He said the government will "carve out" and put applications in for money from the co-investment fund, as part of a long-term solution.

N.W.T. Housing Minister Alfred Moses says the government is still working on finding solutions for the displaced tenants, more than two months after the fire. (CBC)

"I think in the short-term, we have addressed some of the [issues], some of the families — not all of them. But we still have to work together to find solutions."

To that, Simpson replied: "I know all about the rental issues in Hay River. What is the plan to get them in a house immediately?"

"We are working on it," said Moses.

Moses said in the latest update, seven tenants found new apartments, four families were given temporary federal housing units, and six homes on the K'atlodeeche reserve were renovated and are ready for occupants.

Moses said another ten units on the reserve will be renovated to help house tenants "soon."

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