Green housing programs out of cash, not taking clients

Yukon Housing is out of money, so if you’re looking to build or retrofit your home you’re out of luck. At least for awhile.

Yukon Housing is out of money, so if you’re looking to build or retrofit your home you’re out of luck.

At least for awhile.

The home ownership and home repair programs were budgeted to last until April 2009, but the Yukon Housing Corporation didn’t expect the programs to be so popular.

“We didn’t budget for the increased activity to the extent that it’s at,” said Marc Perreault, Yukon Housing’s director of program delivery.

“It’s just the perfect storm,” he said.

Since April, 246 people have signed up for the programs. No new clients will be considered until April 2009.

There is currently no wait list for clients next year.

“We’ve got to be careful,” said Perreault.

“What happened is, right when people were considering possible upgrades to their homes, we got hit with the rising energy prices,” he said.

Yukon Housing identified the cash shortage and decided to review its finances about two weeks ago, said Perreault.

The government could have acted sooner to prevent the programs being frozen, said Steve Cardiff, MLA for Mount Lorne.

“The government was aware that the program was running out of money,” he said. “They prepared a supplementary budget (in the spring), and what it looks like is that they failed to put money into this program when it’s known to be a popular program.”

Money should be coming back into the program too, said Cardiff.

“It’s a loan program, so you would think there would be money coming back into it,” he said. Cardiff could not confirm whether money would be returned into the program’s funds or into the government’s general revenue.

There are signs the government wasn’t prepared for the popularity of the program. One person called Cardiff and told him that they had already been approved for the program.

When the person later asked the government for the loan, they were told the program had no money.

Cardiff hasn’t heard from the program client since.

“Subsequently, we’ve heard from other people who have been trying to get in the program, and they’ve basically been told they have to wait until April,” said Cardiff.

The program freeze comes at a time when the economy could use a stimulus from the government to keep people working, said Cardiff.

“It’s a good way to keep people working through the fall and winter months and into the spring,” he said.

“It keeps money moving in the economy and we know that money is tightening up,” he said. “Some businesses have laid people off earlier than they would have because things have slowed down.”

Premier Dennis Fentie recently announced the government would be investing in capital projects and infrastructure to counter the economic slowdown.

“It doesn’t have to be big mega projects,” said Cardiff, “and they don’t have any big projects ready to go anyhow.”

The home repair and ownership program is budgeted more than $7 million a year, said Perreault.

It’s still unclear whether Yukon Housing will receive more money next year.

“I would say that we’re analyzing our capital budget for next year,” said Perreault. “And if we believe that we need an increase in our budget, we’ll request it.”

Yukon Housing will be doing a budget review in February, he said.

“I think this year was an anomaly,” he added.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com

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