Housing on the way as Hay River strikes land development agreement with territorial gov't

The government has agreed to lend the town the money it needs to develop 43 hectares of land near the community’s hospital, said Hay River's deputy mayor. New houses should start popping up on the development in about two years.

New houses expected to start popping up on developed land in about two years

Land south of Hay River's health centre will be developed by the town, with the aim of creating more housing for residents. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The town of Hay River and the N.W.T. government are partnering to develop new land in the community. 

The government has agreed to lend the town the money it needs to develop 43 hectares of land near the community's hospital, according to Deputy Mayor Donna Lee Jungkind. The land is within town limits, and won't change the footprint of the community.

Since the town announced it would have land available, Jungkind said multiple developers reached out to see if they would be able to get a piece of it.

"Maybe we don't need to borrow as much as we thought that we need to," she said. "If we can presell a large portion of it, we won't need assistance."

She said the territorial government is "reassurance" that the town will be able to develop the land.

Currently, Jungkind says the town is working on finding out what the community, government, residents, businesses, and developers want on the land. That will help the town determine how much it needs to borrow from the territorial government and how it will be divvied up.

Jungkid said there is no set cost for developing the land but is sure it will be in the millions. 

"We just don't know exactly how many yet," she said. 

'Behind the eight ball'

The development is good news for people looking to rent or buy property in Hay River, as the town currently has no lots for sale past the bridge.

Many residents have struggled to find adequate housing in Hay River, including Liam Dean, who moved to Hay River with his family three years ago. When they moved, they intended on renting for one year, and then buying a home, but with limited rental opportunities, that wasn't an option, he said.

Liam Dean moved to Hay River three years ago, and says the town is in major need of new housing stock. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The family ended up buying a house that needed renovations — Dean said all of the houses his family was looking at needed updates, and referred to the home he did end up buying as "an ongoing project."

Luckily, Dean is a carpenter so the family was able to buy a home and make the necessary updates, like new floors and cabinets.

"The rental market here… there wasn't a lot of options," he said. "And the options that were available when we were looking were not great."

The home he did end up buying is a duplex, and Dean has rented out the other unit. He's had no trouble finding a tenant, he said.

"We bought it knowing we'd have no problems renting it out," said Dean.

He said the land development will be good for Hay River, but hopes that someone will come into the community to help build and develop on the land.

"I think we're a little behind the eight ball in developing land, but there's a huge cost to it," said Kandis Jameson, Hay River's new mayor-elect, said, 

She said the partnership between the territorial government and the town limits the amount of exposure to risk for taxpayers when it comes to the project. She also said that she'll push the project forward by making sure new councillors are up to speed on the agreement so it can keep moving forward quickly.

Hay River will elect a new council on Oct. 15.

A representative for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs stated "the GNWT agreed to have staff meet with Town staff to understand what this land development approach could look like and what GNWT interests may be related to the development."

The territorial government said, for example, the NWT Housing Corporation has identified "a need for lots suitable for multi-family units as well as single family residential development."

The town estimates that the first houses will start popping up on the land in about two years.

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