I recently drove by the cardboard boxes left over from the affordable housing demonstration by the legislature which led me to think “outside the box” and wonder why we expect only government to provide “affordable” housing.
Walmart, for example, comes to mind. The four Walton “children” each have a net worth of over $US 35 billion according to walmart1percent.org. Just to put it in perspective, the Yukon government’s very generous annual budget is just over $1 billion. Each Walton has 35 years of Yukon’s annual budget in their pocket! (They are also on the list of least generous billionaires.) What would happen if the Waltons shared some of their wealth with their employees by paying them more? Perhaps some of these demonstrations need to be taken to the source of the problem: where the working poor work.
Why are we not asking corporations that are at the root of the problem to help with the solutions? How about a living wage?
This is an extreme example but the gulf between rich and poor is expanding here in Whitehorse as well. Perhaps as a small landlord you have one or two rental suites. Do you actually need to charge what is currently called “market rent” just because you can? Could you provide comfortable, safe accommodation by charging more affordable rent at no risk whatsoever to your current lifestyle?
I also think we need to be careful what we call affordable housing. One of the cancelled projects proposed 350 square-foot apartments for the “affordable” rental rate of $900. This is $2.57 sq.ft per month, or $30.85 sq.ft per year, which is a very good commercial rent from a landlord’s perspective.
How is this affordable housing? Not to mention that 350 sq.ft. is a very small space even for one person to live in, especially in this climate. Two one-bedroom apartments are being built in Carcross at the cost of $450,000! Surely this amount of money could be spent in a more efficient, effective way to help more of the people it is intended to help.
As well, the market is continuing to change. The lower house prices will have to put a damper on rental rates in time as people will choose a mortgage over exorbitant rents as house prices decline. It may be painfully slow for the people needing accommodation but probably still faster than the glacial pace of reactionary government initiatives. That we now have an adequate lot supply after the hot market peaked indicates that timing is not the government’s strong suit.
Why does the government not enforce existing health and safety standards to ensure accommodations meet those standards and encourage upgrading of established units?
I think we all want people to have safe and affordable housing but government giving money to private developers is not the only or even the best solution. Let’s get creative. A higher minimum wage might be a good place to start. And in the ideal world, until the Waltons learned to share, they wouldn’t be allowed to play.