As many of us are now fully aware, the territorial government has just cancelled three “affordable” housing projects that were slated to create 75 housing units at up to 95 per cent the market rental rate. The plan was funded by the Northern Housing Trust, of which the government has $13.5 million left after six years of sitting on the money.
The rejection of this plan, which took years to arrive at, no doubt means several more years of inaction before another attempt is made to solve the housing crisis.
Meanwhile, people in the territory continue to be unable to afford the housing they need. This can mean having to access emergency shelters regularly, or staying with friends in overcrowded conditions. Women continue to have their children taken away from them for being homeless, reduce their spending on food and healthcare to pay for housing, or put themselves at risk in abusive relationships or by exchanging sex for shelter.
Given these realities, we should be jumping at the opportunity to spend $13.5 million on creating housing. But by sending the issue back to the drawing board again, the government has clearly chosen not to. Their reasoning for cancelling the project was not to make it more fitting to the realities of people’s varying housing needs; no, they instead took their advice from the Yukon Real Estate Association, which claims that the plan could have unfairly deflated the market. With 75 new units, in a population of 25,000.
This is our responsibility as well. The money involved came out of our taxes, and the elected officials choosing not to use it are paid by us to make decisions in the interests of the community. Will we stand by silently as they actively reject the opportunity to prevent some of the desperate compromises people are forced into when they cannot afford housing?
We need affordable housing now. It is not something we can simply put off for a few more years, or until the next election. We should not accept the fact that our government is actively making decisions that endanger the health and safety of hundreds of adults and children in our community.
Mona Luxion and