Housing co op worries are a red herring: Kenyon

A handful of residents at the bankrupt Whitehorse Housing Co-op are exaggerating reasons it should continue to operate because they fear they could…

A handful of residents at the bankrupt Whitehorse Housing Co-op are exaggerating reasons it should continue to operate because they fear they could lose their plush apartments, says the minister in charge.

“We’re only talking about four people,” said Jim Kenyon, the minister overseeing the Housing Corporation, on Monday.

“If they applied for social housing they would likely qualify for a one-bedroom apartment.

“They’re currently in a three-bedroom house, so needless to say, they’re not too keen on getting into this discussion.”

The co-op was placed in receivership and taken over by the Yukon Housing Corporation in 2003 after a former resident fled with a large amount of money.

The person remains at large but is under investigation by the RCMP, said Kenyon.

The co-op’s financial woes appear to be coming to a head as residents square off against the corporation while it evaluates options for what to do with the facility.

Contrary to opinions of some residents and politicians, all possibilities — including co-signing a nearly $300,000 loan for the co-op from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation — are being investigated, said Kenyon.

But another likely possibility is absorbing the remaining six units rather than keeping the co-op afloat.

Six of the 12 units at the co-op have been part of the Yukon’s social housing stock since the co-op was created in 1992.

“The question really is, for an organization that’s already in financial difficulty, does going further into debt make sense?” said Kenyon.

Two tenants in the remaining six units have given notice, leaving a handful of residents worried about it becoming tenants of social housing, he said.

“If it goes to social housing, and I can’t say that it will, then yeah, the people there might not qualify for it, which is perhaps one reason why they’re being so vocal about it.”

On Monday, The News reported that several residents at the co-op are interested in taking a loan from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to cover the co-op’s debt and allow it to continue.

But because the co-op is under the Yukon Housing Corporation’s oversight that loan would have to be co-signed by the Corporation.

“Yukon Housing Corporation won’t allow us to have that loan,” said Christiane Cramp, a resident at the co-op, in an interview Monday.

With about $1.6 million of debt, including the property’s mortgage and the nearly $300,000 requested for the loan, the co-op faces a tough challenge to survive, Kenyon explained.

“Co-operative housing is a good concept and in some cases it works,” he said.

“Our concern is that this one has to work, otherwise it’s the Yukon taxpayer that’s going to pick up the bill.

“You have to look at what it’s going to cost to keep the co-op going.

“To do any kind of a study that doesn’t include all of the various factors would be a flawed study,” he said.

The co-op’s fractured history may also play a factor in the corporation’s decision, added Kenyon.

“The management of it is certainly part of the study and what’s going to happen, but the basic thing is just running the numbers.”

On Monday, Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell called on Kenyon to maintain the co-op in its current state to protect affordable housing.

Kenyon feels Mitchell doesn’t understand the issue and is electioneering.

“The issue has always been there,” said Kenyon.

“What’s developing is an election, and they’re having a little fun with this.”

A decision from the housing corporation is expected within the year, said Kenyon.