This is page numbers 1443 - 1480 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was housing.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 77-19(2): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

Page 1443

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It has always been my belief that partnership between our communities, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and other levels of government is the key to increase affordable housing in the Northwest Territories. Through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, we have an opportunity to make this a reality.

The co-investment fund has the potential to bring significant investments into communities across the Northwest Territories, working in partnership with all levels of governments, private market investors, and non-governmental organizations.

Working with the federal government to improve the programs in the Northwest Territories is ongoing. Although, we have had a number of successes, including the dedicated "carve off" of $60 million under the fund, in the Northwest Territories. There is still more work that needs to be done to ensure that this funding works for the Northwest Territories. We have heard that applications can take a long time to process. The applicants are in favour of northern applications. In both 2019 and 2020, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation met and worked with the federal government to discuss identified problems with the National Housing Co-investment Fund and to seek clarity around easing the restrictions and the process of making applications more accessible under the fund.

Mr. Speaker, achieving the goals of the national housing strategy will only be realized once applicants can successfully access these funds. The number of applicants coming into the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is increasing, and we are hearing more and more interest from community partners.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is continuing to support and implement these federal programs throughout the Northwest Territories. We are conducting joint presentations with CMHC at the community level. The NWTHC and community housing corporation have formed a joint review committee for the program, which will work to ensure applications are handled in a timely manner. The Housing Corporation also assists the CMHC by taking a "no wrong door approach" that field introductory questions by stakeholders, providing an overview of the process, and funneling proponents to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation specialists.

Additionally, we recognize that the proposal and application approach of the National Housing Co-investment Fund is a barrier for smaller communities, that they face challenges due to limited proposal development capacity. As such, as creating community engagement advisor positions to promote and market the program, assisting developers with applications, and help communities to be clear and develop project ideas.

The territorial government, through the Housing Corporation has the potential to be a primary partner in the co-investment fund projects with the CMHC, and other housing stakeholders. This could include partnership in co-investment projects through access to NWTHC's Community Housing Support Initiative.

However, the Housing Corporation is not required by CMHC to commit upfront 25 percent of the project costs without first having an opportunity to review and develop a business case and a resourcing plan that has fully vetted all possible sources of funding. For example, a proponent's application could have them accessing up to 95 percent of federal financial assistance through a combination of both low-cost financing and grant or additional partner contributions. Maximizing federal partnership and other partners' contributions is critical to ensure that GNWT funds can be leveraged across numerous projects.

Mr. Speaker, we are also making progress in the community housing plans. As we get further into the completion of those plans, we will be identifying other opportunities of investment. This will help with the creation of the business plans and needs assessments that will assist in the selection of projects under the co-investment fund.

This is the future of suitability, adequacy, and affordability for affordable housing in the Northwest Territories. With our limited resources, we cannot do this alone. The National Housing Co-investment Fund will allow the community-led responses to housing development that will need to meet the needs of Northerners. I encourage all the interested partners to reach out to the NWTHC and CMHC, and I look forward to seeing all the new applications come in. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 77-19(2): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Minister's Statement 77-19(2): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

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Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, I move that this statement be moved into Committee of the Whole for further discussion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 77-19(2): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. The motion is in order. To the motion.

Minister's Statement 77-19(2): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

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Some Hon. Members

Question.

Minister's Statement 77-19(2): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed? Any abstentions? The motion is carried.

---Carried

The Minister's statement will be moved into Committee of the Whole. Thank you. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 78-19(2): Improving Mental Health and Addictions Recovery Services
Ministers' Statements

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Increasing the number and variety of culturally respectful, community-based, mental health and addictions programs, including after-care is a mandate commitment of the Government of the Northwest Territories. Addictions continue to be a prevalent issue in the Northwest Territories and one that affects far too many of our residents. This government, led by the Department of Health and Social Services, continues to work towards addressing residents' unique needs and to reduce addictions by providing access to treatment, after-care supports, and recovery.

Addictions recovery looks different for each individual. There is no "one size fits all" approach. As such, the department is working to improve options and choices for individuals and families as they pursue recovery in a way that works for them. The Stepped Care 2.0 Model provides rapid same day access to mental wellness and addictions recovery supports that include e-mental health apps, online self-help services, and skill-based programming options. The implementation of a Stepped Care 2.0 Model and approach to care will provide residents with a range of options that they can choose from as and when needed. Stepped Care 2.0 aligns with the seamless care pathway approach. The seamless care pathway, which is the foundation of the Mental Wellness and Addictions Recovery Action Plan, ensures individuals and families have timely access to the right level of care that is solution-focused and based on their present needs.

Mr. Speaker, as part of the larger Stepped Care 2.0 approach, we are continuing to enhance the community counselling program. We are now offering same day appointments across the territory to increase access and reduce wait times for residents seeking counselling. The department is also continuing to support regional and community Indigenous governments to deliver land-based programming for mental wellness and addictions recovery. Beginning this year, the department will also be working with communities to establish peer support programming like Alcoholics Anonymous and Wellbriety at the community level. Additionally, because the availability of safe sober housing close to home is a key piece of supporting individuals in their recovery, we are also exploring options for a transitional housing model that will meet the needs of NWT residents in recovery.

Mr. Speaker, one of the ways we are enhancing services for addictions recovery is by adding more options for facility-based addictions treatment. The department recently issued a request for proposals from southern addictions facilities to provide treatment programming to NWT residents.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that as a result of this RFP process, the number of treatment facilities contracted by the GNWT has increased from four to six. Effective October 1, 2020, the department has contracts with Thorpe Recovery Centre, Renascent, Poundmaker's Treatment Lodge, Fresh Start Recovery Centre, Edgewood Treatment Centre, and Aventa. I have toured some of these facilities myself, and I can confirm that services provided are excellent and much appreciated. By increasing the number of service providers, we can ensure we provide a wide range of specialized services, including gender-specific programing, family programming, programming for individuals with FASD, medical detox options, expedited intake of pregnant women, and extended care options.

Mr. Speaker, we also anticipate that the addition of these two new facilities will help to reduce wait times for treatment. However, because of the pandemic, every treatment facility is currently operating at reduced capacity. While we anticipate better access in the future, we will likely continue to see longer wait times until these facilities return to full service. In addition to the expansion of these facility-based options for residents, the department is also working to implement several eMental Health options. One of these options is an interactive after-care recovery app. This will be available for NWT residents to support them in their recovery and wellbeing.

Expanding the range of options, Mr. Speaker, means more choice for residents. The availability of additional options for facility-based treatment, and the enhancement and introduction of other addictions recovery and after-care programs and support options will ensure residents have access to the right combination of supports at the right time.

These are important steps in providing an improved ability to support mental wellness and addictions recovery, thereby creating meaningful change for individuals, families, communities and the territory as a whole. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 78-19(2): Improving Mental Health and Addictions Recovery Services
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 79-19(2): NWT Housing Corporation Community Engagement Update
Ministers' Statements

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Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Appropriate community engagement is vitally important to all Government of the Northwest Territories departments and agencies, including the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. I know first-hand the value of having the voice of small communities heard at the political level. It is also important to me that, instead of having community representatives come into the capital to discuss their issues and concerns, that I come to them to speak to our people in their home community, to see housing conditions for myself, to speak with the staff on the ground.

Mr. Speaker, this summer, I travelled to 14 out of the 33 communities. I had the opportunity to discuss with local and Indigenous leadership in those communities and took those opportunities to highlight the many opportunities of the Housing Corporation programming and promote the community housing plan process and also the co-investment federal funding opportunity. During these community visits, I toured assets and ongoing construction to see what we are putting on the ground. It is one thing, Mr. Speaker, to read in briefing notes about good work that the corporation is doing, but it is another to see that infrastructure come to life. I also had the opportunity to talk with district and local staff, congratulating them for the work that they have done and discussing areas of improvement. These people on the ground, the LHO staff in our communities, are working hard to get this work done.

Mr. Speaker, it was very critical for me to highlight on these trips that one of the most effective tools for the community engagement is the community housing plan process. These community housing plans are developed hand-in-hand with local and Indigenous governments to ensure that locally and appropriate housing solutions are developed for all communities. When completing these plans with the guidelines and support the housing aspirations of all communities in the NWT. Mr. Speaker, at this time, one of these plans for the community of Whati has been completed. Further, the Housing Corporation staff have met with representatives of 15 other communities to discuss their community housing plans. Despite the difficulties that the pandemic can present to the community engagement activities, I am pleased to say that four more community housing plans are close to completion.

We recognize that the development of community housing plans for all 33 communities in the Northwest Territories is ambitious, and it's an undertaking we are committed to work with, all of our partners and the community members in a meaningful and a respectful way. Developing these community plans can take time, especially while ensuring that all of our staff, partners, and community members are following appropriate COVID-19 precautions. However, these plans are too important. I am confident that these plans will be tremendously of benefit, a huge benefit, to all the communities of the NWT. I look forward to sharing the completed plans with the Members as they become available, and importantly, I look forward to the improvement of housing outcomes these plans will bring to our communities.

In closing, I want to thank the community leaders, the residents who are able to meet with me and simply greet me on the street. Schedule with our leaders, schedule with our Indigenous groups and governments are jam-packed, but we were able to be everywhere and not to be everywhere at once. I want to get the point sometime in our four years that, when an appearance by the Housing Minister is given on the street and the community does come forward with ideas, that I take them seriously. I take them seriously to enhance our programming that we display as the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, and I look forward to continuing my trips throughout the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 79-19(2): NWT Housing Corporation Community Engagement Update
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Colleagues, just before we continue, please be mindful of the interpreters. I think they are in overdrive right now. Just take your time. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Housing Needs and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Business Model
Members' Statements

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the North, we have a severe deficit when it comes to housing for our residents. Although the NWT Housing Corporation is responsible for upwards of 2,400 public housing units, we still know of families and individuals living on the streets, in shelters, or with relatives. In the southern part of the NWT, this is costing this government on average approximately $600,000 per unit to build. While in the North, it can be around $1 million per unit. This, in many instances, does not take into account the cost of administration, land, and land preparation.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT Housing Corporation is planning for a combination of 22 new and replacement units across the NWT. I am pleased to hear that two new units are for Hay River. However, these two units will be used to replace the six that were demolished to make way for RCMP housing in the community. That is correct, Mr. Speaker. Hay River lost six units and received two. It does not take a mathematician to figure out that the community is now in a deficit compared to last year.

Mr. Speaker, without the support of the federal and territorial governments, housing problems facing our northern residents would be worse than they are now. However, saying that, it does not take away from the fact that we are not utilizing our funds as efficiently as we could. There is $60 million in the co-investment fund provided by the federal government, and approximately two years later, not a penny has been accessed. In September, the federal government announced the rapid housing initiative, a $1-billion program. These funds, if accessible, would not only provide much-needed housing but also provide safe places for family to access services from organizations like the Hay River Family Support Centre and others.

Mr. Speaker, from the outside looking in, the NWT Housing Corporation appears to have become stagnant and lost sight of its purpose. It appears to have raised a white flag and surrendered. I know that people employed by the Housing Corporation are good people. I know they have great ideas, are passionate and enthusiastic. I look to the Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and this government to show leadership and provide that encouragement and support.

Mr. Speaker, times are changing; family sizes are changing; lifestyles are changing; the NWT is changing. It is reasonable to expect that the NWT Housing Corporation will embrace this change and consider adopting a new business model for public housing delivery. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Housing Needs and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Business Model
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.