Open letter to Housing Minister Brad Cathers:
It seems the memory of your department is quite short. Three years ago, people were camping on the lawn of the legislative assembly building to express the urgent need for affordable housing.
Since 2011, as far as I know there have been no new affordable housing projects developed in Whitehorse other than a few projects to replace older buildings or answering the needs of a specific population like seniors housing.
Hundreds of people are living in decrepit hotel rooms paying over $1,000 a month because there are no other options. Many of these rooms, that are not affordable or adequate long term housing, are paid for by the social assistance rental allowance, our tax money.
Stakeholders from the whole community have participated in multiple consultations and been through several attempts and false starts to invest the $13 million from the Northern Housing Trust fund. These funds have been sitting in a bank account for at least 10 years while hundreds of people continue to live in housing with black mould, extreme high heating costs or spend more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, supplying the long list of food bank clients.
I can’t believe that after years of consultations and of multiple cancelled projects, a few calls from the most prosperous in our community is enough to cancel a long-awaited supply of affordable rental units in Whitehorse.
“We have listened to input from stakeholders who point to recent increases in land availability and housing supply in Whitehorse that have resulted from government and private sector actions,” you said. Where were the Yukon Real Estate Association and the Yukon Residential Landlord Association when you did the consultation for this project to put to use the $13 million available for investment for affordable housing? Shouldn’t assessing upcoming housing projects have been part of the Yukon Housing Corporation’s planning process from the beginning? Are we now somehow supposed to believe that the housing crisis is being solved on its own, but only the real estate and landlords’ association knew about it until now?
There are many expensive condos available on the market, but the list of rental units in the newspapers is quite appalling in its short length. Not even a year ago, in your press release for these projects, you were quoted saying: “For many Yukoners finding affordable rental housing remains a challenge.”
We now clearly know who you are working for, and it’s clearly not the Yukon population, and those most in need of affordable housing. “The Yukon government remains committed to working on the issue of improving availability of affordable rental accommodation, and we are formally inviting both the Yukon Real Estate Association and the Yukon Residential Landlord Association to become more involved in developing the Housing Action Plan for Yukon.”
I sincerely doubt your commitments toward affordable housing as you just cancelled a project that would have allowed just that.