Time for the city to cut loose

Here's a picture for you. While empty, serviced lots sit unused downtown, Whitehorse is tearing up popular residential greenbelts to build homes.

Here’s a picture for you.

While empty, serviced lots sit unused downtown, Whitehorse is tearing up popular residential greenbelts to build homes.

Also, we’re in the midst of a housing crisis that has stretched for years – because there aren’t enough building lots available.

Again, look at all the fully serviced, underutilized land downtown.

The city’s hands are tied because the vacant land is privately owned, said Mayor Bev Buckway recently.

Bollocks.

The city isn’t shackled. Not even close.

It has the power to set municipal tax rates. And that same tool can be used to provide landowners with subsidies – a carrot, if you will.

The city could offer tax breaks or subsidies to developers willing to build downtown. It could also penalize speculators who let viable residential properties sit idle.

They could continue to lie fallow, of course, but it would cost the owner a fair bit of coin.

Why?

Because the city is in a bind. And, when you find yourself in such circumstances, you take action to fix it.

Of course, this might make some of those landowners cranky. It might also anger some downtown residents, who fret about the character of their neighbourhood.

But let us look at the alternative.

The city is expanding and plunking expensive infrastructure into virgin land while serviced land sits idle.

That expansion isn’t only expensive to build, it also adds to the cost of running the city – there are more roads to plow, more lights to install and power, expanded bus service … you get the picture.

Building population density downtown improves business opportunities, is better for the environment and makes the city a much more interesting place.

It’s also a lot cheaper.

This year, the city is raising taxes four per cent. And, to lessen the blow (and the blowback), council has drained city reserves not earmarked for specific projects to $12,000 from $1.1 million.

That’s budgetary sleight of hand that only works once.

Next year? Well, we’ll see.

Bottom line, city council’s decision to coddle landowners sitting on vacant land is costing all of us tens of millions of dollars in development. And more in operational costs. Not to mention the environmental impacts.

By comparison, encouraging the development of vacant lots, through taxes and subsidies, would cost the city next to nothing.

Taxes are going up. And they’re going to keep going up.

Buckway says the city’s hands are tied.

Well, perhaps it’s time we find someone with enough gumption to pick up a knife.

(Richard Mostyn)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Connie Peggy Thorn, 52, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Greg Dawson. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse woman pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Greg Dawson

Connie Thorn, 52, was arrested in October 2019 and pleaded guilty in Supreme Court on Jan. 27.

Abigail Jirousek, left, is tailed by Brian Horton while climbing a hill during the Cross Country Yukon January Classic in Whitehorse on Jan. 23. Jirousek finished second in the U16 girls category. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Cross Country Yukon hosts classic race

Cross Country Yukon hosted a classic technique cross-country ski race on Jan.… Continue reading

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talks to media on March 5, 2020. The Yukon government said Jan. 25 that it is disappointed in a decision by the federal government to send the Kudz Ze Kayah mining project back to the drawing board. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Territorial and federal governments at odds over Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The federal government, backed by Liard First Nation, sent the proposal back to the screening stage

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 27, 2021

Yukon RCMP said in a press release that they are seeing an increase in tinted front passenger windows and are reminding people that it is illegal and potentially dangerous. (RCMP handout)
RCMP warn against upward trend of tinted windows

Yukon RCMP are seeing more vehicles with tinted front passenger windows, prompting… Continue reading

An arrest warrant has been issued for a 22-year-old man facing two tickets violating the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em>. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Arrest warrant issued for CEMA violation

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ansh Dhawan over two tickets for violating CEMA

The office space at 151 Industrial Road in Marwell. At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 25 meeting, members voted to sign off on the conditional use approval so Unit 6 at 151 Industrial Rd. can be used for office space. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Marwell move set for land and building services staff

Conditional use, lease approved for office space

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

Most Read