Housing Minister Paulie Chinna pledged on Wednesday to put more momentum and resources into helping the NWT access $60 million in funding for affordable housing through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, but MLAs questioned whether it will prove fruitful.
Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South, asked Chinna why “after two years, not a penny of the National Housing Co-Investment Fund has been accessed by any proponent in the NWT?”
Chinna responded that work is underway to access the funding, and said there are plans to hire a co-investment project officer by Christmas. She also cited trips in the summer throughout the NWT with CMHC that sought to gain Indigenous partnerships and interest in applying to the co-investment fund.
“I’m committed to working a lot more stronger, a lot more harder (and) getting the message out. I need NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to come forward, I need Indigenous groups to come and work with us, $60 million has to be spent,” she said.
However, a comment from Simpson suggests another reason why the co-investment dollars haven’t been accessed: “The problem I see is that we have a program that has too many players.”
The outcome of the Arnica Inn transitional housing project demonstrates that all parties to a co-investment application have to be on board.
Due to the fact that the NWTHC didn’t support the project, the CMHC couldn’t support it either and the transitional housing scheme didn’t go ahead.
Bree Denning, former executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, told NNSL Media in September of 2019 that the society had applied to the CMHC through a co-investment channel for up to 75 per cent of the total funding.
Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland asked Chinna whether the NWTHC has the resources to “proactively” spend the money over the course of the assembly’s term even if it takes ownership of the $60 million.
Chinna responded that she hopes to have something “very strongly implemented at least by January” and would update MLAs on the progress of the co-investment fund.
Start with Yellowknife
While Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson complimented Chinna for her passion on the housing file, he asked whether a co-investment fund partnership could start in Yellowknife to help the city with its 10-year, $147-million plan to end homelessness.
“(The city) does not have the money or the resources, nor do they have the mandate to completely end homelessness,” Johnson said. “That is where the NWTHC must step up. There is great work being done by our non-profits. There is the capacity to access more federal money if the housing corporation will take up the lead.”
Johnson added that clear leadership is needed that would go to Ottawa with a plan and secure funding to “truly move the dial on housing. Absent us doing it, it will not happen.”
Chinna replied that she would check on how much the NWTHC spends in Yellowknife, as she believes the housing corporation spends a “significant amount,” and she pledged to work with the city.
“I also want to just express that we have 33 communities throughout the Northwest Territories, and homelessness has become a huge, significant issue throughout the territory,” she said.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Strategy is a $55 billion, 10-year plan to reduce homelessness and provide more affordable housing across the country.
The co-investment fund involves a partnership with the NWT Housing Corporation (NWTHC) to build new, mixed-use affordable housing, with the federal government contributing up to 75 per cent of the costs.