Municipal solution to housing crisis: lower taxes

After reading the positions of many of the candidates in the upcoming municipal election, I cannot help but feel that most of them are running in the wrong election.

After reading the positions of many of the candidates in the upcoming municipal election, I cannot help but feel that most of them are running in the wrong election. Housing and health care are the responsibility of the territorial government, not the city. We are getting inundated with commitments that cannot be kept. Not by city council anyway.

This has been repeated in every municipal election I have followed in Whitehorse. Territorial issues being kicked around while municipal responsibilities are shoved aside. Could it be that water and sewage, snow removal and the city’s other services lack the glamour of improving social housing, health care and substance abuse programs?

I have yet to hear one councillor or mayoral candidate speak of the steady increases in taxes with any real commitment. Over the last 10 years, property taxes have increased 100 per cent. That is an average increase of 10 per cent per year, far greater than inflation and greatly outstripping anyone’s pay increases. This is the 500-pound gorilla in the room. It is inflationary, scares away business and erodes everyone’s disposable income.

Worst of all, the greatest impact is felt by the working poor, seniors on fixed incomes and the marginalized. It is also a major contributor to increased rental costs as landlords have to pass these rate increases on to tenants.

The candidates are again bemoaning the lack of affordable housing and health care. Don’t be fooled this time

In the last municipal election, including a recent byelection, candidates shed alligator tears over the lack of affordable housing and when elected went on to increase recreation funding by millions of dollars and again increased the mill rate. So much for their commitment to affordable housing. They just don’t realize that municipal taxes are a major component of the costs of housing, or they really don’t care.

I will not vote for any candidate who will not make an unconditional commitment to not raising the mill rate in the next council’s term. I will not accept any fuzzy comments about keeping taxes down. I want a clear statement that under no condition will they vote in favour of any mill rate increase or they won’t get my vote and hopefully not yours as well.

I will also not vote for any candidate who comes forward with a grandiose scheme that will surely increase council’s spending. We have had too many shopping-list candidates in the past and they are running in this election too.

Tax increases have become so regular that the people of Whitehorse have started to see them as normal. The assessment increases (the value of your house which is being taxed) alone have exceeded the inflation rate. That and the increasing number of properties being taxed should more than suffice to meet the city’s needs. There is nothing normal about increasing the mill rate. It is a drastic act and is indicative of failure by our leaders.

The time for the city to become fiscally responsible is long overdue. You can vote for change, and making the city live within its means is the change we need. It will slow the increasing cost of owning a home and it is the only tangible thing the city can do to make home ownership more affordable.

Make the city accountable. Insist on a mill-rate freeze or reduction. Identify which mayor and councillor candidates are committed to this and then get out and vote.

Bill Barnie


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