A perfect storm of housing demand

So why is there such an increase in demand for housing, and therefore a housing shortage in Whitehorse? Many blame the city for a lack of planning. But according to city planners - and laid out in Whitehorse's Official Community Plan - there are several factors.

So why is there such an increase in demand for housing, and therefore a housing shortage in Whitehorse?

Many blame the city for a lack of planning.

But according to city planners – and laid out in Whitehorse’s Official Community Plan – there are several factors, some of them unforeseeable, that have led to an increase in demand.

There are nine factors that contribute to demand.

And when you look at these factors in relation to Whitehorse, it seems to be an almost perfect storm of housing demand.

Home Ownership Rate

Apparently, the higher the number of people who own a home, the more others will want one of their own.

No one wants to be the only person in town renting.

In Whitehorse, between 1991 and 1996, these rates increased to 67 per cent from 60.

Two of every three households in the city own their own home. This exceeds the national rate.

Average Household Income

It goes without saying that the more money a family has, the more likely they’ll be to buy a home.

Average incomes in the Yukon have risen steadily, according to census data.

Between 1991 and 2006 the average rose 35 per cent, to $92,308.

Age Distribution

The largest age demographic in Canada is the baby boomers, which the community plan defines as those born between 1946 and 1964.

Many of these boomers already own homes.

But their children, known as the baby boom echo, have started to reach their 20s and 30s.

These children are now entering the homeowners’ market.

Meanwhile, their parents might be looking to downsize and buy a home to retire in – which adds additional demand to the market.

Population Growth

Population growth is the usual suspect when it comes to housing demand – if there are more people, you need more houses.

The population of Whitehorse has doubled since 1971.

Enough said.

Housing Density

The interesting thing is that you don’t necessarily need more people to need more houses.

If the number of people living under one roof, on average, begins to decrease than housing demand will increase as well.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

For whatever reason (Aging families? Smaller families? Rising divorce rates?) the number of residents per dwelling has declined 15 per cent between 1986 and 2006.

In 2006, there were only 2.47 people per dwelling, on average.

Mobility

If a population becomes more stable, and less transient, people are more likely to want to put down roots and buy a home.

Again, that’s exactly what’s happening in Whitehorse.

In 1981, only 51 per cent of Whitehorse residents reported having lived there for over five years.

In 2006, 78 per cent of residents responded that they’d been in Whitehorse that long.

This number is likely to increase further as additions like the Canada Games Centre, the Millennium Trail and the new waterfront development have made the city more livable.

Whereas people used to move south to raise families or retire, many are now sticking around.

In fact, because of the Yukon’s generous drug plan, many pensioners are actually choosing to retire to the Yukon.

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates have been hovering at or near historic lows for the past seven years now.

Low mortgage rates mean relatively low monthly mortgage payments and have definitely contributed to the growth in demand in Whitehorse over the past 15 years.

Housing Prices

The only factor that might ebb the increase in demand is the city’s astronomical housing prices.

The average sale price for a single detached house in Whitehorse has increased at a relatively steady rate between 1999 and 2005.

Prices increased by 34 per cent to $199,000 from $149,600.

After that, prices skyrocketed. Between 2005 and 2008 housing prices shot up 62 per cent.

That same house that was once worth $149,600 is now worth $322,800.

Housing prices have only continued to climb in the past three years.

Housing Affordability

In order to buy a $325,000 home, an annual household income of about $81,500 is required, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s online mortgage calculator.

Given that the average household income was $92,308 in 2006, this would appear to be affordable for the average Yukoner.

But it remains out of reach for many.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com