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Condo association comes together

The Yukon's condo market may be booming, but the legislation and regulations governing it haven't kept pace, says Paul Bojakli, president of the Alberta Mortgage Brokers Association.

The Yukon’s condo market may be booming, but the legislation and regulations governing it haven’t kept pace, says Paul Bojakli, president of the Alberta Mortgage Brokers Association.

Bojakli flew into Whitehorse Wednesday night from Calgary, taking a break from stampede week, to chair the first meeting of the newly formed Yukon Condominium Homeowners Association.

While there is still a lot of work to do, the association’s formation is a good first step, said Bojakli, who also owns Quantus Mortgage Solutions, a brokerage firm with an office in Whitehorse.

The newly formed condo association is the brainchild of Sonny Gray, a local businessman and condo owner. “I started it to protect my investments and to protect the developments that I saw struggling,” he said.

Though the condo association only held its first official meeting this week, there’s already been a lot of progress, said Gray, who has been working on the project since May.

He’s already been invited to sit on the advisory committee set up by the Department of Justice to look at modernizing the Yukon Condominium Act and the Land Titles Act.

The territory’s condo act hasn’t been updated since it was created back in the 1970s. The Department of Justice wants to rewrite the law over the next three years, but that’s too long, said Gray.

However, from his discussions with the department, Gray is hopeful that changes to the condo act could be put through much sooner. “It should be a living, breathing document,” said Gray.

One big change that should happen right away is making contingency funds mandatory, he said.

Right now, territorial condo boards don’t need to keep a reserve fund for major repairs.

That’s not only a problem in the event of some unforeseen emergency, but also from a financing perspective.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation looks for an adequate reserve fund when it considers insuring a loan, said Jill Pollack, a Whitehorse-based broker with Quantus.

The CMHC also wants audited financial statements from the condo board and builder warranties. Those aren’t required in the Yukon either, and that means that lending options in the territory are limited, said Pollack.

“My estimate is that we have one handful of residential lenders available here, not counting the big five banks - compared to twenty-plus available to the rest of Western Canada,” she said.

With the government tightening mortgage rules, it’s only getting more difficult.

Simply creating a better legislative framework would go a long way to attracting more lenders to the Yukon market, said Bojakli.

While the Yukon still has a long way to go to catch up to its provincial counterparts, the good news is that the territory doesn’t have to start from scratch, he said.

“The resources and the precedents are all right there,” said Bojakli.

“We can certainly model after these other communities that have gone through these same struggles,” added Pollack. “A lot of the things that we need to catch up on aren’t really that complicated, and if people understood how and why, I think it would be fairly easy to get support for these initiatives.”

Along with advocacy, education will be another focus of the new condo association, said Gray.

“There’s a lot of people who own condos, and they want to see their investment protected and they want to have some kind of voice, someone they can go to and say, ‘This is an issue,’ and someone will take it up for them,” he said. “We’ve got some really good people working with us, and that’s going to be key to keep this rolling and moving forward.”

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