Yukoners will need to work together to solve housing issues – that was the takeaway message on Oct. 5 as community representatives dedicated a day and a half to the Yukon government’s 2021 Housing Summit.
The event – attended by around 50 in person and 50 online – aimed to connect different groups of Yukoners to help develop solutions to the territory’s housing woes.
Top of the list is a lack of affordable options for both renters and homeowners.
“We knew we were in a tough spot in housing. I mean, this is not something that happens overnight. We’ve seen the trends and population growth, we’ve seen other challenges come around even over the last decade,” said the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation Ranj Pillai, in opening remarks on Tuesday morning.
|Around 100 people attended the summit on Oct. 5, both digitally and in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)|
“At that point, you know, my ask to my boss was that, first of all within the Yukon government, that we look at doing things in a different way than we had done before. And that we would need to have collaboration between multiple departments like we had not seen before,” he said.
Pillai noted that progress has been made, including the Challenge Cornerstone project and the Boreal Commons project, but said more needs to be done.
Pillai also said the Yukon government is well connected to its federal counterparts, with a possibility for multiple $25-million housing projects.
“We’re sitting in meetings, we’re making plans, we’re doing transfer payment agreements, we’re coming up with concepts. We can do it. If we approach it that way, something that seems like a really insurmountable challenge, it’s not. There’s just way too much talent and resources here,” he said.
Pillai said the goal of the summit was to have a list of “action items” that would improve the situation and make it easier to bring on new projects.
|Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation Ranj Pillai, opens the Yukon Housing Summit with remarks on Oct. 5 at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)|
Those in the room included government staff as well as representatives from Yukon communities outside Whitehorse, First Nation organizations and development corps and groups like the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and Energy Group.
A number of NGOs, including the Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition, Seniors Action Yukon, Victoria Faulkner and Tr’ondek Hwech’in Men’s Shelter, also attended.
Attendees also heard from Yukon Housing Corporation president Mary Cameron.
“As the minister has rightly said, available and affordable housing continues to be a pressing issue across Canada and within the Yukon. And when we look at our territory, we see that these challenges are not uniform. There are very different needs in Whitehorse and in the Yukon communities as well as disparities between the communities,” she said.
“So as we begin today’s summit, and in the spirit of partnerships, I invite you to consider the following questions. What can you do? What can you do? What can your organization do to grow the housing stock in the Yukon? Does your solution include addressing the affordability housing gap? Are there new partnerships you would like to explore that you haven’t yet?” she asked.
Cameron noted that a record number of residential building permits have been issued this year, with the latest numbers being 534 issued in the third quarter of this year.
She also noted that 29 per cent of Yukoners are spending more than a third of their income on rent and 13 per cent of homeowners are struggling to afford their property, according to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com