Not NIMBY in Niven: Public Housing Sparks Dissent

A proposed four-storey public-housing development in Niven Lake has residents of the area digging in their heels and planning appeals against the development permit.

In early May of this year, a notice announcing the $4.6 million, 19-unit NWT Housing Corporation building was taped to a pole on Moyle Drive, across from the Niven Heights development, townhouses and villas.

According to Bryan Manson, a member of the nearby townhouse condo board, neighbours weren’t informed about the development by any other method, and the notice only gained widespread recognition when the City mentioned it in their Capital Update on Friday May 15. That gave the project’s opponents four days (Monday was a holiday) to send in their appeals before the May 22 deadline.

“The City was pretty quiet about this. I’m not trying to say they tried slipping it under the radar, but there was no extra advertisement,” says Manson.

What followed was a flurry of letters to the City from disgruntled Niven Lakers, and two appeals that will likely be heard later this month.


It’s not an issue of zoning, says Manson, who is one of the people appealing the permit. Current zoning would allow the 19 units (though it may not allow a second 19-unit building which has also been proposed).

The problems, he claims, are: neighbours weren’t consulted; the proposed building will be slightly higher than the allowable 15 meters; and no traffic or shadow studies were done. To be clear, the studies were not required by regulation, and it is within the development officer’s purview to allow some extra height. But when a development officer uses that discretion it means their decisions are subject to appeal, says Manson.

“My objective is to follow the letter of the law with the development act… My objective is to get fair consultation,” he claims.

The main thrust of the appeal, he says, is to get the Housing Corporation to lower the height of the building, change its appearance slightly, and assess whether more parking is needed to prevent the streets from becoming crowded. (There are 19 parking stalls currently planned.)

It’s not, he is adamant, a case of Not-In-My-Back-Yard, or NIMBYism, from people afraid of lower-income residents moving into the relatively upscale suburban neighbourhood. Though, he admits, “some people are not pleased about the public housing. Niven Heights and Grace Lake have some of the highest property tax and they’re putting something like this in their backyard, I’ve heard that voiced by some people.”

The Housing Corporation’s development on 53rd Street is similar to the proposed Niven Lake structure

At this point, it’s unclear if the building is intended to house any particular segment of the population: seniors, low-income people, single parents, etc. Cara Bryant of the Housing Corporation says there’s a sizable waitlist for people needing public housing: as of June 1, there are 107 people in Yellowknife on the waitlist for one-bedroom apartments, 60 people waiting for a two-bedroom, 19 for a three bedroom, and eight for a four-bedroom.

The plans submitted for the building show a four-storey building almost identical to the silver metal-sided Housing Corporation building on 53rd Street. All units appear to have two bedrooms. No date is scheduled yet for construction to start, says Bryant, however the project is expected to commence as soon as approval is granted.


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