bylaw may add to apartment shortage

Whitehorse’s municipal politicians ought to give their heads a shake. They are about to further restrict the availability of rental suites in…

Whitehorse’s municipal politicians ought to give their heads a shake.

They are about to further restrict the availability of rental suites in a market already struggling with a lack of decent, affordable accommodations.

That’s a shortsighted move that threatens to sap the local economy.

Whitehorse needs more apartments.

Private-sector employers are painfully aware of the worker shortage in town, and the lack of decent rental suites — and the high cost and shabbiness of the existing stock — hinders efforts to lure workers North.

Job seekers always ask what the rental market is like. These days, the only honest answer is “really tight and expensive.”

Whitehorse council has not addressed the shortage.

In fact, it is moving to make it worse.

How?

Through its Controlled Substance Properties Bylaw.

This adjunct to the Yukon’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation will give city officials the power to enter a premise after a tenant was evicted.

Now, it needs to be mentioned that there are plenty of slum landlords in town who are renting dank places filled with black mould, broken windows and substandard construction.

The city is not doing anything to clean up that problem.

Asked about that last year, the city said it lacked the budget and authority to inspect slums.

Apparently, that’s changed.

Emboldened by the Yukon’s safer communities law, which empowers the territory’s secret police force to evict people they deem suspicious, the city is now getting expanding its inspection business beyond simple code violations, albeit on a limited basis.

If, following an eviction under SCAN, a city official finds a house unfit for habitation, they will order the landlord to fix the place up.

If the landlord refuses, or the place fails to pass muster, the property owner can be fined up to $5,000.

“We’re not after the owners, we just want them to be very cautious with who they rent their property to,” said bylaw manager John Taylor.

Funny, sounds like it’s going after the owners.

In fact, it sounds like it’s dictating what kind of people private landlords should accept as tenants. Choose the wrong renter and city officials could penalize you.

So, at what point does a landlord simply decide it’s not worth having rental suites anymore?

The territory’s landlord and tenant act is antique. Landlords already assert it offers them little protection in dealing with problem tenants.

Now they face fines if they rent to people the territory’s anonymous SCAN police deem undesirable under the safer communities law.

That’s troubling.

Owners are responsible for their properties, said Taylor. They should check them once a month.

Which is fine if the landlord is in town.

“We don’t know what we’ll do about informing people who are Outside,” said councillor Doug Graham.

Who needs it? Better to sell and be done with it.

Which threatens to further limit the availability of rental units in this market.

That tight rental market is just going to make it harder for private-sector employers to recruit workers.

And that’s going to throttle the economy.

Council would do well to consider this before proceeding with its proposed Controlled Substance Properties Bylaw. (RM).