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$1.52 billion Northern Property REIT refuses to rent to Yellowknifers on income assistance

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Northern Property REIT logo

UDATE 20140623 from Northern Public Affairs

Falvo: 10 Things to Know About Yellowknife’s Northern Property Conundrum
Posted … on May 23, 2014 [excerpt]
“… Blogger and researcher Nick Falvo comments on Northern Property’s decision to “tighten” its policy on renting to income assistance recipients.
On May 20, I was a guest on The Trailbreaker (CBC North) with host Loren McGinnis discussing a controversial decision by Northern Property, the NWT’s largest for-profit residential landlord.  The 8-minute podcast is available here.
Northern Property has been in the news lately for announcing that it will “tighten” its policies on renting units to recipients of income assistance.  According to a company spokesperson:  “two-thirds of its tenants currently on income assistance are behind in rent payments.”
Here are 10 things to know about this conundrum:
With much of Canada’s social housing having been built in the late 1960s, some of these agreements have already begun to expire; and many more agreements are set to expire over the next decade.  The Harper government has been quite silent on what (if anything) it plans to do about this emerging problem.” Though this declining federal funding applies directly to housing that is owned and operated by non-profit entities (such as the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation) this will have serious repercussions for Yellowknife’s broader housing market going forward.  Indeed, as I also wrote last year: “Expiring operating agreements will hit Canada’s northern territories especially hard, due largely to the fact that operating costs for housing in northern jurisdictions are higher than in other parts of Canada.”
For an overview of the potential impact of expiring operating agreements on Canada’s northern territories, see this 2007 report by Luigi Zanasi. …” 

Nick Falvo is a Ph.D. candidate at Carleton University.

--- END UDATE 20140623  ---

UDATE 20140619

"... Conversation with the chair of the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission, Charles Dent. What does discrimination on the grounds of social condition look like, and is it happening in Yellowknife's rental market? ..."

"... Human Rights and Social Condition

May 14, 2014 http://nwthumanrights.ca/news/2014/4920

[excerpt] NWT Human Rights Commission encourages NWT organizations to ensure policies do not impact people specifically because of their Social Condition

YELLOWKNIFE (May 14, 2014) – The Northwest Territories Human Rights Act (the Act) states that every individual is free and equal in dignity and human rights. According to part 3 of the Act, the role of the NWT Human Rights Commission (Commission) is to enforce the Act and the principles underlying it. The Commission encourages NWT organizations to be mindful of the provisions of the Act and especially, the ground of Social Condition.

Under the Act, NWT employers, landlords and service providers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of numerous grounds, including Social Condition. Social Condition is the condition of inclusion of the individual, other than on a temporary basis, in a socially identifiable group that suffers from social or economic disadvantage resulting from poverty, source of income, illiteracy, and level of education or any other similar circumstance.

Discrimination is differential treatment of, or failure to accommodate, an individual on the basis of the individual’s actual or presumed membership in or association with some class or group of persons, rather than on the basis of personal merit.

Examples of sources of income that might be associated with socially identifiable groups that suffer from social or economic disadvantage are income support, employment insurance, retirement income, a rent subsidy from a public housing agency, and a workers compensation pension. ...."

--- end UDATE 20140619 ----

CBC North reports  that the Northern Property REIT (NPR) Trading Symbol NPR.UN which (from its website) claims it "... is the largest multi-family residential landlord in each of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ..." and has (as of December 31, 2013) total assets of $1.52 billion and $821 million in equity "...says it lost $200,000 last year because people on income support stopped paying rent...."

"...The territorial (NWT) government says its helped 175 families living in Northern Property units pay rent over the past year ... The company says two-thirds of its tenants currently on income assistance are behind in rent payments..." (CBCNorth)

So if my math is correct, NPRIT lost about $760 per family on income assistance last year (please correct me if I am in error).

So because of this... Yellowknife's biggest landlord is tightening up its rules on renting to people who rely on income assistance and is sidestepping the issue of if it is discriminating against poor people and no one in the NWT seems to be willing to do anything about it... especially the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT). It might help if the Income Assistance Program of the Department of Education Culture and Employment (ECE) actually paid out it's housing money in a more timely and stable manner.

I have no idea how many buildings the GNWT leases from Northern Property REIT, but since their "...commercial property most often involves government or corporate convenants and long-term leases...." (NPR website) one would certainly like to have someone more knowledgable than I decide if there is a conflict of interest here.

"If anything, we've been not discriminating against them and giving them extra leeway because they're getting payment from income support," Lizaine Wheeler, the company's vice president of residential operations said. "But because we realized our arrears is so high, we've had to say we're stopping this."

"The Department of Education, Culture and Employment says it is working with Northern Property to try to find a way to assist those who are falling behind on their payments but because most income assistance is re-evaluated every month the government can't guarantee the people will have a fixed income." (CBCNorth)

"... Northern Property REIT (NPR) is an unincorporated open-end real estate investment trust that invests in a portfolio of mainly residential income-producing properties located in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan....

The REIT's primary business is providing rental residential property to Canadians in these carefully selected communities.  Our definition of housing is broad.  NPR owns and operates rental apartments and townhomes.  We are a significant provider of housing to government and corporations, which sublet our units to their staff.  We provide furnished executive-suite accommodation in selected locations.

In addition, NPR has a portfolio of commercial properties primarily located in its northern communities.  Our commercial property most often involves government or corporate convenants and long-term leases...." (NPR website)

Yellowknife's Vacancy Rate - You Have Got to Be Kidding Me June 20, 2011 by Adrian Bell
“…since 2007 … an average vacancy rate of 1.84%…” in Yellowknife.

Jeannie Mantla and her two-year-old daughter Sheyana Alyssa Smith/NNSL photo

Jeannie Mantla and her two-year-old daughter Sheyana have not had a place to live since their eviction from the Fort Gary Apartments on May 6. - Alyssa Smith/NNSL photo

Eviction without notice 'barbaric': MLA
Mom and two-year-old without a home for three weeks
Alyssa Smith
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 28, 2010

“… Sheyana Mantla celebrated her second birthday on May 12 without a place to call home.

She and her mother, Jeannie Mantla, 19, were sent packing from their Fort Garry Apartments unit on May 6, weeks sooner than expected.

 Mantla said the Yellowknife Housing Authority notified her at the beginning of this month that her lease would be up on May 31, and she would have to leave the unit at that time. The apartment is owned by Northern Property REIT but is leased to the housing authority, which had sub-leased the unit to Mantla.

She said she was at home with her daughter and two friends on May 6, when a property manager from Northern Property REIT opened the door to her apartment, came in and told her to get out. Mantla said she was not given a reason why she was required to leave, and isn't sure what it could be.
Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins said he's concerned proper procedures are not being followed.

"This is kind of a barbaric way of doing things," he said. "The department of housing could potentially be standing by while we have an illegal eviction by the Yellowknife Housing Authority," he said. "They need to be concerned about that and investigate it to make sure that's not the case."

Hawkins said when he brought up his concerns with Robert McLeod, the minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, in the legislative assembly last week, McLeod seemed "standoffish."
Hal Logsdon, the rental officer in Yellowknife, said leasing from private landlords is a common practise for social housing providers like the Yellowknife Housing Authority.

"It's a fairly cost-efficient way of delivering public housing," he said.

Logsdon said these re-renting situations involve two tenancy agreements: one between the private landlord (like Northern Property REIT) and the social housing landlord (like the Yellowknife Housing Authority), as well as one between the housing authority and the tenant residing in the unit.

He added that in these situations there shouldn't be a direct relationship between private landlords like Northern Property REIT and the tenant residing in the unit.

Logsdon said that in the event a tenant is making a disturbance in a building, the private landlord has no standing to make an application to end the tenancy order simply because they do not have a tenancy agreement with the tenant: the housing authority does.

As to whether or not a property manager from Northern Property REIT would be allowed to enter a unit occupied by a tenant of the housing authority, Logsdon said notice would have to be given to both the housing authority and the tenant.

Logsdon said that there are no circumstances which legally entitle a landlord to evict a tenant. …”

Northern Property goes on Iqaluit buying spree by Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, May 21, 2011
"...Northern Property Real Estate Investment Trust will acquire the properties in Iqaluit in a $50.7 million transaction also involving properties in Alberta and British Columbia... Northern Property already owns 585 residential units in Iqaluit, along with 39 furnished executive suites and 149,055 square feet of commercial space. ...'

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