The affordable housing pinch hurts everyone

Bill Thomas, Charlotte Hrenchuk and Hannah Zimmering Members of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition are struggling to understand the decision-making process and evidence being used when deciding how to spend the $8 million remaining in the Northern Housin

Bill Thomas,

Charlotte Hrenchuk

and Hannah Zimmering

Members of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition are struggling to understand the decision-making process and evidence being used when deciding how to spend the $8 million remaining in the Northern Housing Trust Fund. We know others are also questioning who is being consulted and how the spending of federal funds will match findings of Yukon government’s Housing Action Plan.

We question why the vacancy rate for all kinds of housing is being used as the marker for the availability of affordable rental housing in Whitehorse. We know the market is segmented. Simplifying the data is not a transparent approach. Lumping single detached housing, condominiums and duplexes with apartments does not provide a clear picture. According to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, there is a 2.3 per cent vacancy rate for apartment units under $1,000 in Whitehorse – that’s fewer than 20 units across the city.

We are wondering why median rents, which have been on the rise since 2005, are barely discussed. Why is the government not doing its homework and finding out the percentage of Yukon people that are living in housing that costs more than 30 per cent of their net income (the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s definition of affordability)? Why not analyze those gaps and spend the money based on a complete picture?

We know, for example, that when people make $15/hour, an affordable rental rate based on CMHC’s definition of affordability would be $780/month. When making minimum wage, an affordable rent would be $557/month. Median rents currently sit at $900/month.

If the analysis were done and the reality of the housing situation were acknowledged, members of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition believe multi-unit rental accommodation would be in highest demand.

We know that the private market will not build this kind of housing without government incentives. The real estate market has proven this; contractors have confirmed it. Just to be clear, we are not talking about condominiums and duplexes, we are talking about multi-unit buildings (apartments) adding to density and choice for citizens – low-income earners, new Canadians, young workers, people in need of supports that come to where they live.

There are many people in need and many solutions. We have yet to hear that decisions will be made based on facts or that all stakeholders will be heard. Or even that decisions will be made based on the last 11 months of work on the government’s Housing Action Plan.

How about providing support to Grey Mountain Housing? How about using the money to support a plan to end homelessness? How about building more social housing? How about providing incentives to contractors to build more affordable housing? How about buying already constructed housing and contracting non-profits to provide supports? These options would give everyone, including the most vulnerable in our community, an opportunity to thrive. And they have all been proposed through the Housing Action Plan.

We don’t believe the current way of doing business is good enough for the citizens of the territory. It’s not good for any of us – not for people looking for housing, not for people wishing to live here, not for those building the housing, not for the bureaucrats doing the policy work, not the politicians, not the advocates, not the landlords nor the real estate agents.

It is time our government did their homework, used the information available to them and spent the federal money on what it was meant for – housing pure and simple. Housing that fills gaps in the continuum and supports all sectors of the community.

Bill Thomas, Charlotte Hrenchuk and Hannah Zimmering are co-chairs of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

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

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Whitehorse sewage lagoons photographed in 2011. With new regulations for wastewater anticipated to be introduced by the federal government within the next decade, the City of Whitehorse may soon be doing some prep work by looking at exactly what type of pollutants are making their way into the city’s wastewater. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Pondering pollutants

City could spend $70,000 looking at what contaminents are in waste water

Most of Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 graduates. The former students were welcomed back and honoured by staff at the school on Oct. 14 with a personalized grad ceremony for each graduate. (Submitted)
Individual Learning Centre grads honoured

Members of the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 were welcomed… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Most Read