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Beyond Niven Lake

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 11/02) - Niven Lake fits into a broader picture of city development, which includes work by private firms to bring more housing online.

That is crucial, as the October vacancy rate for Yellowknife was 0.9 per cent, and territorial projections call for about 5.7 per cent growth in Yellowknife over the next three years.

Those numbers are being propelled upward by expansion of operations at Diavik and Snap Lake mines. Reviews by council have projected a need for 300-500 additional housing units in the next three years, and as many as 1,200 in five to seven years.

In the private sector, developers maintain their opposition to city efforts in development.

"The city shouldn't be in development," said Royal Homes owner Tony Chang, who also offered a word of caution. "The last time when they developed Niven Lake, they over-reacted, they said that private development couldn't do it. They got into business and so far it's cost Yellowknife a tremendous amount of money. They really need to think it through."

Chang said his company plans to bring about 15 single-family units online this year, along with a 36-unit apartment building. That, added to 140 apartment units planned by Nova Construction, means the market should soon be flush with new housing space.

But both Chang and Nova owner Mike Mrdjenovich accused the city of poor development strategy: Mrdjenovich for a foiled attempt to build a seniors' complex, and Chang for a city refusal of a rezoning request for 12 additional townhouses.

"If there's a crisis, and the city's not prepared to support development -- turning down that rezoning was a crazy thing," Chang said.

But work in the private sector is not completely separate from the city's efforts, since it could also affect Niven Lake.

"If the private sector gets involved, there's a certain percentage of the market that's being accommodated through the private sector," said Van Tighem.

"It will slow down the speed at which we develop and market Niven Lake."