Amid what officials in the Yukon government’s Economic Development department call a critical housing shortage and extremely low vacancy rates, landlords will soon be able to apply for a one-time payment of $338 on eligible rental units.
At an Oct. 19 technical briefing, department officials said the temporary landlord assistance program is intended to stabilize the rental market and keep rental units available.
The Yukon government estimates the program could cost just over $1 million based on 100 per cent uptake.
According to officials, a recent regulation change could be driving landlords out of the territory’s rental market which could result in less rental stock.
However, officials said that rolling out this temporary program isn’t an admission that the rent cap isn’t working as intended.
The rent control policy that went into effect in January capped rent increases at five per cent instead of matching the consumer price index — which was 6.8 per cent for Whitehorse for the previous calendar year — as stipulated in the confidence and supply deal between the Yukon Liberal Party and Yukon NDP caucuses.
That regulation change apparently caught landlords off-guard, per officials. Now the department is trying to rectify the situation by making up that 1.8 per cent gap for landlords.
Officials said the department has consulted the Yukon Residential Landlord Association and the business community. Officials said they heard concerns that landlords may consider leaving the rental market if they can’t recoup costs. Renters were not consulted.
Officials couldn’t put a number on how many landlords are actually fleeing the rental market.
Officials confirmed there is nothing in the program stopping landlords from leaving the market after they get the money.
The department won’t be able to enforce the program, or measure its impact on rental supply until another census or other data comes in, other than anecdotally.
The amount being rebated to landlords is calculated based on Yukon Bureau of Statistics data that sets out a $1,565 average on monthly rent. It is based on an estimated 3,000 units eligible for the program. The number of eligible units comes from 2021 census data that counted 5,530 tenant households in the Yukon and by subtracting the amount of units that aren’t eligible.
Private sector landlords who collected rent for part of the 2023 calendar year are applicable.
Government-owned units, Yukon First Nation units and illegal units won’t get accepted under the program, among other eligibility requirements including those related to units covered by the act, units that meet standards and regulations and short-term vacation and travel accommodations.
Officials said there’s nothing quite like this program in other jurisdictions, as far as they were aware.
The application will go live on Nov. 2.
The deadline to apply is Feb. 29, 2024.
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com