Empty houses taunt the homeless

Jeckell Street is becoming a ghetto, say residents. People living in the area are blaming the growing number of empty townhouses.

Jeckell Street is becoming a ghetto, say residents. People living in the area are blaming the growing number of empty townhouses.

The townhouses belong to Yukon Housing and many have been sitting empty for more than six months.

Going door-to-door campaigning, NDP candidate Liz Hanson has heard complaint after complaint about the empty buildings.

People are “beyond angry that there are this many empty units when the housing market is so dire,” she said during a news conference Tuesday.

Yukon Housing has 364 units in Whitehorse, said Yukon Housing operations director Ron Brown.

Of those, 16 are empty.

“That’s not even five per cent,” he said.

But eight of those 16 are empty townhouses in the Jeckell Street area.

And two more are coming empty this month, said Hanson.

Brown did not know how long the townhouses had been sitting empty.

When a unit is vacated, Yukon Housing does repairs on the unit before moving new tenants in, he said.

“And all the work around Whitehorse is taking longer because it’s not easy to get contractors,” said Brown.

Yukon Housing has been using federal stimulus money to help with the repairs.

“We are trying to keep things going, because there’s a deadline on the money,” he said.

“And we have a long waitlist.”

On Wednesday, there were 134 people on Yukon Housing’s waitlist.

More than half those applicants, including victims fleeing violence, have been waiting between one and three years for housing, said Hanson in a release.

“If we can’t house our citizens and assist those who need it most, we have a real problem in our society,” she said, calling on government to release a housing adequacy report and a housing-and-poverty indicators report it’s been sitting on since earlier this year.

In the Yukon, 44 per cent of housing stock is in need of repair, based on territorial and federal statistics.

And there are 1,230 houses in the Yukon that are considered uninhabitable.

“Everywhere I go, I hear a Greek chorus lament, ‘Housing, housing, housing,’” said Hanson.

“We don’t need any more talk or studies on homelessness and housing needs,” she said in her release.

“That’s been done.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com