Side view of the mock-up of the 12-unit Affordable-to-Own Housing Development that Soulspace Design Build is hoping to pursue on Lowe Street in downtown Whitehorse. (Submitted)

Affordable housing in the downtown

A dozen units will be sold at or below median price

Affordable home ownership — at least if you deem that at or below the median price of comparable properties — in downtown Whitehorse could be a possibility next year.

It was announced June 25 that Yukon Housing will provide $420,000 from the Housing Initiatives Fund to the 12-unit Lowe Street Affordable-to-Own Housing Development that Soulspace Design Build is pursuing.

The development will be built next to Riverside Grocery and is expected to be finished in 2020.

As Yukon Housing Corp. director of operations Marc Boucher explained, the proposal for funding was submitted by Soulspace Design in the second call for proposals issued by Yukon Housing. The fund is designed to support affordable housing initiatives that address local needs.

In this case, the sale price is required to be at or below the median sale price for similar Whitehorse units for the next 20 years. The most recent real estate figures available from the fourth quarter of 2018 show the median price for a condo in Whitehorse as $374,900. It does not break the price down further to show the median cost specifically for one and two-bedroom units.

“The Lowe Street Affordable-to-Own Housing Development will diversify homeownership options and increase the number of energy efficient and accessible homes in Whitehorse,” Pauline Frost, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corp., said in a statement. “Through the Housing Initiatives Fund, we are proud to support projects that create affordable housing options for Yukon across the territory.”

Soulspace president Erica Heuer said in an email that the one and two-bedroom units at the Mantra development will be between 500 and 950 square feet with units on the ground floor being barrier-free for wheelchair accessibility and designed so tenants can age in place.

The units — six to a building — will face north on Lowe Street and include terrace gardens on the south side, taking advantage of the sun, mountain and river views. The downtown location is also close to stores and services as well as parks, trails and the Whitehorse General Hospital.

Describing the plans, Heuer said: “Units will be simple, Scandinavian design — white and wood, with custom touches and joyful splashes of colour. As our name indicates, we want to create spaces that delight the soul … in their simplicity, mainly, and natural light. We will aim for 60 per cent over the National Building Code in energy efficiency, and there will be solar panels on the roofs. With a south-facing back, it would be rude not to! And there will be plenty of storage.”

It’s expected ground will be broken on the site towards the end of July.

A sales plan for the units is not in place at this point, Heurer said.

Soulspace, created just over a year ago, is aiming to help address the need for housing in Whitehorse.

“We want to be part of the solution in this housing crunch, creating modest, joyful, affordable homes in the inner city,” she said. “We’re grateful for this grant. Without it and the benevolence of a few key people, we couldn’t manifest our good intentions.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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