Lack of support from housing corporation leads to funding rejection for Arnica Inn transition to affordable housing

The project would have seen 42 new units of supportive housing. (CKLB file photo).

Bree Denning says she was surprised to hear the NWT Housing Corporation didn’t support the Yellowknife Women’s Society’s project to turn the Arnica Inn into transitional housing.

She was told as much not by the housing corporation itself but by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation after it rejected a $2.25 million funding application for the transition.

“We’ve been working on this application since last April really and we hadn’t heard directly from the (NWT) housing corp. at any point that they were not going to be supporting the application,” says Denning, YWS executive director.

She adds that she’s reached out to the housing corporation for an explanation but has not yet heard back.

Quick and affordable

Denning says the plan was a “really quick solution to a problem that has been getting worse and worse.” And since the building was already there, it was affordable when comparing to a new building of a similar capacity.

According to Denning, the CMHC was also hesitant since many of the tenants would be on income support. It wanted a guarantee that income support rates would not change.

And without the support of the NWT housing corporation to back the women’s society, it wasn’t a sure enough thing for the CMHC.

The 42 units at the Arnica Inn would have been for supportive housing. That means there would have been on-site support staff to help with daily living activities, like attending appointments, help with income support, treatment options, etc.

Project unlikely to go forward

In a Facebook post, Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said she was, “shocked and dismayed by the news.”

She also referred to housing minister Paulie Chinna’s words saying the territory is in a housing crisis.

“How can we lobby the Federal government and ask for more money for housing, when our Territorial government isn’t helping local organizations get a well-researched and thought out plan off the ground?” said Alty.

I’ve just learned that the Federal Government, through CMHC, has declined the funding application of the Yellowknife…

Posted by Rebecca Alty on Friday, February 21, 2020

According to Yellowknife’s latest survey from two years ago, about 338 people experience homelessness in the city.

Denning says there are more than 150 people on the waitlist for affordable housing; the Arnica Inn project would have provided half of the affordable housing the City of Yellowknife identified it needed in its 10-year plan to address homelessness.

“Short of an angel investor coming in or the GNWT deciding to support the project entirely, with considerably more funding than we were requesting (from the government) in the beginning, the project won’t go forward.”

CKLB has reached out to the NWT Housing Corporation for details on why it did not support the funding application, and if it had a plan that would see 42 new units of transitional housing for the city.

On Friday afternoon, the housing corporation offered media an interview with its president Tom Williams.

An hour later, it revoked that offer, and postponed until next week.

“I still get to go home and sleep in my bed,” said Denning. “I’m much more concerned about the folks that were hoping for this to be an option for them to live in and are going to be spending another few years homeless as a result.”

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.