The struggle to find affordable housing in the N.W.T.

Ryan Heron and his partner have packed up the last of their belongings from their three-bedroom home on K’atl’odeeche First Nation in the Northwest Territories. Their landlord has decided to move back in.

Heron’s family paid a reasonable $1,000 per month for rent, which is considered low nowadays. In exchange, they also helped fix up the house and backyard. “The difficult part isn’t having to move out,” Heron said. “Yeah, that was a challenge to say the least, but it was when it come down to actually trying to look for a place, it was $2,100 for what they labelled as a single unit.”

Most of the rental listings were located off the reserve in the town of Hay River. KFN has 600 members, with 300 residing in the community and many others living 20 minutes away in the town of Hay River. Heron’s family is on a waitlist for a plot of land to build a house on. However, due to a sudden eviction, they will temporarily house-sit for a relative in Yellowknife.

“We’re entertaining possibly camping out there, so that’s a couple months if these first two don’t work out, after that, then we’re going to have to think something for winter,” he said. According to the 2023 Hay River Strategic Housing Plan, the new housing supply is at its lowest point in 60 years.

The report concludes this stifles the growth of the Southern Slave Regional Center by slowing down socio-economic progress, restricting job opportunities, and causing understaffing in schools and hospitals. The document cites a lack of contractors and high costs of hiring and building materials as significant barriers to housing development and homeownership.

After a fire in 2019 that forced 150 people from their homes, the only tall building in town is still empty. Meanwhile, a 44-unit apartment building is set to open on July 1. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,100 per month, while a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment is priced at $2,600. Over the past few years, the federal government has provided tens of millions of dollars for public housing in the territory. Even with the investments, renters still have a long list of issues.

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