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Economy fuels demand for housing lots

The Yukon government wants to put more public land into private hands, said Resources minister Archie Lang.

The Yukon government wants to put more public land into private hands, said Resources minister Archie Lang.

“We’re trying to get the land out there now so we can create an inventory of lots so we can move ahead,” Lang announced Thursday afternoon, just hours before a New Democratic Party-sponsored public forum dubbed Land Use: Moving Beyond Conflict.

Amid last week’s two public meetings on land development, Lang said the territorial government is doing its part.

Lang’s aim was to quell public frustration with land allocation and development policies in the territory — from lack of First Nations consultation to the city’s failure to develop residential lots in areas like Porter Creek and Riverdale over the past year.

In several municipalities, land availability is growing scarce.

To address this, Lang announced a handful of residential development plans.

For example, the final phase of Copper Ridge will make106 single-family lots available for sale in September; a new 20-lot country residential subdivision in the Mayo/Hotsprings Road area will also be available in September; 59 lots will be created in Grizzly Valley and there will be additional developments in the new Whitehorse Copper country residential subdivision and Mount Lorne.

Property values have shot up because of the lack of land, said Lang.

“We have to keep an inventory of land to maintain the prices we have today. I don’t think we’re looking back.”

With potential for mining, oil and gas and forestry development attracting more people to the territory, land is not going to get cheaper.

“And it’s only going to get busier. With the things that are on the horizon here — we can’t have economic development if we have no place for people to live,” said Lang.

“All of this development is going to need people, and people are going to bring their families to live the lifestyle that Yukon has to offer.”

“We could be looking at an influx of 2,000 to 3,000 people fairly easy,” said Whitehorse mayor Ernie Bourassa.

“If we start seeing some of these mine developments happen, it could be as soon as the next two years, and that’s going to require a significant amount of housing. We don’t want to be like Fort McMurray and have to build a work camp.”

Lot sales in Whitehorse doubled last year, from 80 to 160, and that bodes well for the economy, said Lang.

“The fact that more people are buying building lots and building homes is proof positive that the economy has certainly rebounded.”

But that increasing demand, coupled with delays in infill developments, have left the city scrambling to catch up, said senior city planner Mike Gau.

The city’s main concern is getting urban residential lots on the market.

“What we want is more sustainable developments and that’s what we’re becoming short on,” said Gau.

Right now, demand is eating 100 lots a year. After the 106 lots in Copper Ridge run out, the city has no supply for next year, said Gau.

The government is planning for future land needs in the territory, said Lang.

“Is this all we have to do? No, this is a footprint of what we’re doing at the moment. We have to address the issue of the expanding economy.

“There is an economic engine that is diving the need for more public land and partnership with First Nations to get land out so we can address the issue of the influx of people that are going to come to the Yukon.

“But we’ve got to do it before they come.”