Two years later, Hay River high rise sits empty following fire

Mackenzie Place after March 15th high rise apartment fire, Hay River. (Photo by staff.)
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While housing availability continues to be a problem in Hay River, the town’s high rise remains empty.

Two years ago, a fire destroyed one floor and left the rest of the building uninhabitable. The building’s 11th floor caught fire on March 15, 2019, leaving around 150 residents without a home.

MLA for Hay River South Rocky Simpson told the Legislative Assembly the lack of action on redeveloping the highrise may see people leave town.

“My concern is that, when we lost the high rise, it displaced a number of people, and when people get displaced in Hay River, they are either on the street or they may not tend to move to Yellowknife or other northern communities; they tend to move south,” Simpson says.

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There were extensive health and structural problems with the building before the fire, Chinna says. (Photo by staff.)

Simpson was critical of what he said was inaction on the part of the NWT Housing Corporation, even suggesting the minister responsible for the corporation, Paulie Chinna, be removed from cabinet.

“I would like to get some units for Hay River before my term is up,” he added.

Housing minister Paulie Chinna says she hasn’t received an updated assessment of the building’s condition. Chinna noted one floor was destroyed by the fire, but there were existing engineering issues with the building before the fire, and health and safety issues like asbestos being present.

“Looking at that building, we are in conversations with the owner presently, and those are ongoing, as well, and we are looking at the coinvestment funding applications, as well,” she said.

The owner of the building, Harry Satdeo, said he was optimistic progress could be made with the building, after he said the Chief Public Health Officer had approved a third party consultant company to do some assessments on the building, when speaking with NNSL.

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It is not clear if that work ahead, considering Chinna has not received a report of the condition of the building.

Back in 2019, in the months after the fire had happened, former Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernathy said the GNWT had ordered Satdeo to hire a third party contractor to assess the building.

“There is no access to the building unless somebody is properly gowned and prepared to go into that building recognizing the hazmat and the contamination issues,” said Abernethy. “We don’t have a plan to do anything with the building, other than keep it under lock and key until such a time as our conditions are met, but we recognize that work needs to be done.”

Simpson also asked what would happen with housing units which had been built for RCMP officers in the community. Simpson said he was worried the units were too small and would sit unfilled, if the officer chose not to move into the units.

Chinna said the NWT Housing Corporation is working on buying all federally owned housing units in the territory, and that includes the RCMP units if they remain unfilled.

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