Groups meet to discuss Housing Action Plan on one year anniversary

The territory’s Housing Action Plan is one year old, but so far, it seems little progress has been made.

The territory’s Housing Action Plan is one year old, but so far, it seems little progress has been made.

At a housing forum last week, five members of the plan’s implementation committee provided an update on the work done during this first year.

Lars Hartling, vice-president of the Yukon Residential Landlords Association, said one of the biggest challenges so far has been a delay in the compilation of data – statistics on everything from rental rates and housing stock to homelessness and demographics – from a variety of sources, including Statistics Canada, the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the point-in-time homelessness count and First Nations housing departments.

“We cannot solve housing problems without quality data,” Hartling said at the forum. “We also need to talk to the frontline people so that we can correlate that the data is correct. But still, we cannot just be throwing blindly our funding around.”

The Yukon Housing Corporation issued a request for proposals (RFP) in January for this task – pulling information together to create a full picture of all the existing data.

For the implementation committee, this has been the most important contract, said Mary Cameron, vice-president of corporate services with the Yukon Housing Corporation.

Two other RFPs were released in January – one for the creation of a communications and marketing strategy, and the other for a housing education plan, which would involve a review of the housing education programs that exist in the territory, such as Yukon Housing’s Home Ownership Preparedness and Education and Blood Ties Four Directions Centre’s Rent Well.

All three contracts were awarded in February. The data contract was awarded to a Whitehorse consultant for $42,000.

But sometime between then and this month, the implementation committee decided to hire another firm to handle the project instead.

This was “due to considerations with where (the local contractor’s) work plan was,” said Cameron.

“The concern was more around the type of research that was being done. We were looking for on-the-ground conversations with housing providers, with non-profit sectors, with First Nations, not just statistical analysis that’s found (online).”

Cameron couldn’t say when the local contractor stopped working on the project.

Options Consulting, a Vancouver-based firm that had the second-lowest bid on the project, at $56,000, began compiling the data just this month.

Cameron said Options Consulting had been busy until this month working on the education program contract, which it had also been awarded.

The Housing Action Plan identifies a need for current, reliable data to help understand housing issues.

“Organizations working throughout the (housing) continuum spoke to a general lack of data and statistics upon which to base decision-making,” it states.

Cameron said there are many sources of data, but each exists in a silo. Connecting them is important.

During last week’s panel, Bill Thomas of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition pointed out the inherent challenge in the committee’s work: “Housing needs are immediate. Building things takes time.”

He said that 90 per cent of people who responded to the point-in-time homelessness count, which was conducted over a 24-hour period in April, said they wanted safe, stable, permanent housing.

The count identified 256 people in Whitehorse who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Cameron said it’s difficult to measure housing progress in just one year’s time.

“I think what we can measure is how many agencies are still committed,” she said. “It’s more than just one agency picking up the torch and solving housing. So with that, I think what we’ve seen over the last year is agencies working together in partnership.”

There are some projects newly underway, the benefits of which won’t be seen for a year or two, she said, such as the new Salvation Army building under construction on Fourth Avenue.

The Housing Action Plan was released last June. It sets out goals and recommendations across three pillars – housing with services, rental housing and home ownership – over 10 years, until 2025.

The implementation committee held its first meeting in August. It’s made up of 19 organizations, including the Association of Yukon Communities, the City of Whitehorse, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the RCMP, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Council on Aging.

The committee meets monthly.

Contact Rhiannon Russell at

rhiannon.russell@yukon-news.com

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