A Yukon home for the cost of your firstborn

Twenty-nine-year-old Colin Asselstine has lived in Destruction Bay for 14 years. He's been actively looking for a home in the small community for the past 12.


Twenty-nine-year-old Colin Asselstine has lived in Destruction Bay for 14 years. He’s been actively looking for a home in the small community for the past 12.

Asselstine has been living in staff accommodations at the Talbot Arm Motel and Fas Gas, where he works as a clerk. For seven years that meant living in one of the motel rooms.

These days he and his wife have a staff trailer on the motel property. They’ve just celebrated their first anniversary and their first child is expected in January.

Now they want a permanent home.

Two years ago, the Yukon government started to listen to the community’s call for a large-scale development, like a subdivision.

“The battle for this has probably been 10 years in the making,” said Asselstine in an interview.

“The government was very slow on receiving it, initially. We’ve been pushing the government to introduce a subdivision, or some land availability, for people to build and reside here.”

Finally this fall, the Yukon government put five lots up for lottery in the country-residential Glacier Acres subdivision. It was the first lottery for the community of 47 since 1991.

For Asselstine and his wife, it looked like things were finally falling into place.

At least until they saw the prices the government was going to charge for the land.

They still entered the draw but were the only ones who did. Everyone else said it was too much money for poor-quality land, Asselstine said.

Within five years, the young family will have to pay more than $53,000 for the land.

With interest and tax it will end up closer to $60,000. They’ll also have to build a dwelling clad to weather, drill a well, construct a driveway and put in a water and sewer system between now and 2016.

As well, the young couple will have to foot the bill for the gravel that will be needed to stabilize the land before building on it.

During community meetings in Destruction Bay with the lands management branch, the Department of Community Services and Inukshuk Planning & Development Ltd., residents stressed the land selected is almost marshland.

“They didn’t listen to us on the placement of where we thought the lots should go,” said Asselstine. “This initial phase one of infill is basically swampy. It’s not the best land. It’s not horrible, but not the best. We told them that.

“Later on we got notices of what we were going to get. So basically, ‘This is it, this is what you’re going to get, and live with it.’”

The government says it did follow up on the concerns raised in the community meetings. Community Services spokesperson Matt King says the lot sizes were increased and road upgrades were approved, as per community requests.

The government also followed up on the concerns raised about poor water drainage by doing geotechnical and soil testing and sampling in that area, said King.

“None of the tests indicated a reason not to proceed with the development,” he said.

On top of the extra costs of gravel to deal with the poor land, Asselstine and the other potential lot owners will pay for a share of the costs to develop the second phase of the overall infill.

A road will be needed to make four more lots planned available, said King.

The cost to construct that road is divided between the entire development: phase one and phase two.

But the four lots and road of phase two will only happen if all of the five lots in the first phase are sold, King confirmed.

So essentially Asselstine will be helping to pay for development that may never happen.

“We fully expect to proceed with phase two,” said King. “The lot prices are set at the development costs. That’s a pretty standard practice. That’s how lot prices are set on multi-phase developments across the Yukon. It ensures the average price of the lot is as low as possible by spreading out the cost to develop the land over the maximum number of lots. The two phases are part of one project.”

The cost for the entire development is estimated at $474,000, said King, making the average lot price $52,600.

In the lottery earlier this month, the cheapest lot was listed at $49,555, the most expensive at $56,748.

Sitting in the Talbot Arm restaurant, Asselstine starts doing the math out loud: $3,000 to $6,000 to connect the power and electricity; $10,000 to $20,000 for a well and $15,000 to $20,000 for the septic system.

“And that doesn’t even get a house,” he said.

There are also costs for gravel and then the building itself, expected to cost $250 to $300 a square foot, he said. So far they’ve only been able to put a $14,000 downpayment on the property.

The total works out to about $500,000 for a modest home in Destruction Bay, Asselstine said, sighing and looking out the wall-length windows at the snow blowing down the Alaska Highway.

“We planned to build slowly, so we could afford it,” he said. “But we’re kind of getting an ass-kicking and having to pay a lot more for sub-par land than we originally figured and most people around here figured.”

Since moving to Destruction Bay, Asselstine has watched many young people leave because there was nowhere to live or it has been too expensive to build or buy.

“I love it here,” he said. “I’ve been here my whole adult life and really grew up here, in a way. I never want to leave, if I can stay here.”

As well as working for the motel, Asselstine picks up odd jobs whereever he can, working the equivalent of two full-time jobs.

With this new housing expense and a baby on the way, he doesn’t see any time off in the near future.

“It’s going to suck,” he said. “No vacations, no fun for a while. But I really want to be here.”

Plus, nowhere else in the territory is much better, he added.

“The entire Yukon seems to be having an issue with land availability and pricing and just the fact that it’s out to lunch,” he said. “We should be making land available, relatively cheaply, for people to move here and stay here and want to live here.

“We decided to buy into this because I want to live here. People think I’m crazy for doing it, but when you want to be somewhere, what can you do?”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at


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

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (yfned.ca)
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

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

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read