Kam Lake development in early stages, despite ‘pent up demand’

Dogsledding on Kam Lake. Photo by Didehcho Blondin.
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Despite “pent up demand”, plans for a housing development extension to Kam Lake are still in their early stages.

According to Sheila Bassi-Kellet, administrator with the City of Yellowknife, planning and engineering is underway for a Kam Lake expansion. 

“I’m hearing a lot of pent up demand for this type of land,” Councillor Niels Konge said during budget deliberations on November 30. “I mean, we’re seeing the effects of having a year with very little development.”

But Bassi-Kellett flagged concerns — which had been previously raised — about overworking staff and “the magnitude” of a project like a housing development, while the city already has several projects on the go.

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The city isn’t working on any other housing projects currently being worked on though.

Yellowknife councillor Niels Konge. Photo supplied by City of Yellowknife.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Northern Housing Report, a decrease in first-time homebuyers, high costs of construction and land availability issues resulted in a decline in housing starts.

There’s a lack of land available to build housing in Yellowknife, according to Adrian Bell, president of the NWT Realtor’s Association. But with the GNWT losing jobs because of COVID-19, it doesn’t make sense to build more housing, he says.

“All they would be doing in that case, is negatively impacting the existing housing stock market and prices so the resale market would be negatively impacted, if they bring a subdivision without actual population growth on the horizon,” said Bell.

Konge has previously said “COVID blinders” are distracting the city from pushing for development, resulting in little growth in the residential tax base and the need for a tax increase.

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“We do a disservice to residents if we don’t consider there are other challenges leading to the need for a tax increase,” said Konge. “If we cut, cut, cut this year when we’ve the ‘COVID blinders’ on, we just make things worse.”

Hay River has outlined plans for several housing developments, but it is projecting its population will soon grow by several thousand people.

“The housing market is driven by turnover, it’s driven by the transients in our population, people coming and going every year,” said Bell. “We have a pretty high turnover rate.” 

The impacts of the pandemic means Yellowknife may not be able to say the same, according to Bell.

“I think people have still been moving,” he added. “It’s just that those people who might otherwise have moved south, as a certain number of residents do every year, have chosen not to.”

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