Four new lots in Mary Lake and Arkell will be sold, but the decision wasn’t made without some discussion at a City Council meeting on April 9.
Many councillors had previously said the pricing on the lots gave them sticker shock. The Mary Lake lots were valued at $230,000 and the Arkell lots were valued at $127,300 and $137,900.
Councillors, as it turned out, weren’t the only ones who felt that way.
“I’ve received a lot of feedback about the price on the country residential lots,” said Coun. Dan Boyd.” I believe we should try see what other options we have.… I think there are a number of options, but in order to do that, I think I should table a motion to, one more time, refer this back to committee to look at pricing options to make them more affordable.”
Coun. Sanson Hartland seconded that motion, though it was later defeated.
Hartland called the situation a “quagmire.” He said he didn’t think the City of Whitehorse should be involved in the business of land disposition, citing the number of municipalities across Canada that have moved large tracts of land into the private sector so city councils aren’t directly involved in inflation.
Boyd said he knew the reason for pricing at market value (so buyers won’t buy properties only to flip them). He said he also knew country residential lots such as these weren’t right for affordable housing lots, though he pointed out that affordable housing is a strategic objective for the city.
“We also are trying not to be part of the process that’s driving costs up and when we only put a very, very limited supply of product out there, it does drive the cost up and it drives the value of everybody’s property that’s out there … I think we’re part of a problem when we price these lots to what we think the market will bear,” he said.
Coun. Roslyn Woodcock said she was “vehemently opposed” to the idea of pricing the lots at anything other than market value.
She said she isn’t a fan of opening up country residential lots in general, but she ultimately agrees with the goal of increasing density in certain neighbourhoods. She said the lots should sell as appraised.
“The city does have to have some for making money so that we can actually have roads that work and sewers that work and everything else,” she said.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said it’s too late at this point to change things. She said if council wants to plan pricing differently, that will require comprehensive research.
“Now is not the time,” she said, encouraging the city should get the lots to lottery and explore alternatives in the future.
Mayor Dan Curtis said that he knows four lots won’t solve the housing problem, but he said every little bit helps.
“I know that when this council began, we had a strategic plan and one of our strategic priorities was land development and getting land out there.” Selling the Mary Lake and Arkell lots is part of that, he said.
The motion passed, with only Hartland in opposition.
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