Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Home, rent prices increasing in Whitehorse, northern housing report says

Affordability continues to be a major challenge, report says

Affordability challenges are among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the North, according to a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC).

The Northern Housing Report focuses on housing in the three territorial capitals — Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit — with much of the information contained in the report focused on the end of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020.

“High costs of land and labour translate into higher costs for housing, and lack of available land for new development further exacerbates the problem,” it’s noted. “While there is an overall lack of housing options in the North, there exist gaps along the entire housing continuum, with a greater need to create affordable units.”

The stats for Whitehorse from April show the average rent for a two-bedroom unit at $1,227 and the vacancy rate at 3.7 per cent, while in Yellowknife, the average cost for a two-bedroom unit is $1,744 with the vacancy rate at 4.2 per cent. Finally, in Iqaluit the average rent for a two-bedroom comes in at $2,736 with a vacancy rate at 0.2 per cent.

In an Oct. 29 interview, CHMC economist Goodson Mwalesaid rental demand in Whitehorse was more moderate in 2019 due to an aging population and international migration to the territory slowing down.

He noted in looking at average and median housing prices, the CHMC used figures from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics. While he said prices may look different from ads for available rental units or homes being sold, the statistics factor in prices that can vary by neighbourhood and features of various units.

The Yukon, he said, has the oldest population of the three territories and while that points to a need to focus more on seniors’ housing, it is often those ages 15 to 24 that are in the rental market while older populations are more likely to own their homes.

As stated in the report, in 2019, the territory’s population of those ages 65 and older remained strongest at 10.4 per cent. That was followed by 5.4 per cent for those in the age 35 to 44 category.

“A similar trend was apparent for Whitehorse, where the older population grew at a much faster rate than any other age category,” it’s noted in the report. “While this underscores the need for seniors housing, growth in the population aged 35 to 44 and 55 to 64 continues to provide the base for housing demand in the territory’s capital.”

Meanwhile, the number of people moving to Whitehorse in 2019 fell to 252 compared to 794 who moved here in 2018.

While the Conference Board of Canada had projected an population increase in the territory of 1.7 per cent in 2020, as was the case in 2019, it’s noted that this was estimated at the onset of COVID-19 and that “total net migration to the region will have likely declined in subsequent months amid business closures and quarantine measures taken to contain the spread of the virus.”

While an aging population and lower number of residents moving to the territory has impacted the rental market, the report also shows a low inventory of homes being resold and the ongoing sellers’ market have seen prices rise for homes.

“Resale inventories remained low in 2019,” the report states. “Based on MLS® transactions, which account for around 65 per cent of total transactions, Whitehorse had a sales-to-available ratio that averaged at 35 per cent in 2019. This implies that about one in three homes listed in a given month was sold, which is consistent with a sellers’ market. … As such, home prices increased across the board in 2019 from 2018. The average price for single-detached houses rose 7.4 per cent to $516,200, while the average for condominiums increased by 9.4 per cent to $376,800. Meanwhile, the average price for duplexes rose 3.4 per cent to $377,700 in 2019.”

Rising incomes and low-interest rates are believed to be the driving force behind home sales rising from 571 in 2018 to 619 in 2019.

Figures show more multifamily homes are being sold and built, something Mwale said is not surprising given the increasing cost of housing.

On the whole, he noted, prices are up for all housing forms.

Mwale noted the report was done a little differently this time around with CHMC officials consulting with stakeholders like Yukon Housing in an effort to capture information beyond market information.

“We revamped it,” Mwale said. “This is the first of its kind.”

As he explained, the CHMC had heard about the need to capture other factors impacting the housing market. To that end, the report details social and affordable housing information showing there are 715 social and affordable rental units in the Yukon — 493 in Whitehorse and 222 units in communities.

“The vacancy rate for social and affordable rental units was 0.6 per cent in Yukon, zero per cent in Whitehorse and 1.4 per cent in rural centres.”

The report also highlights the national housing strategy and the federal $13.2 billion National Co-investment Fund that will see $9.08 million go towards the Challenge Disability Resource Group’s Cornerstone project that will see 45 supportive housing units built.

Mwale said the CHMC will be looking at incorporating more data, such as issues like how construction costs impact housing prices and information that may be available on markets in other northern communities outside the three territorial capital cities, into future housing reports.

The full report is available at https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/data-and-research/publications-and-reports/northern-housing-report

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com


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