Housing is a problem the government can’t simply solve on its own, says Allyn Lyon, the director of community and industry partnering for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
“The government doesn’t have the money to do it all, and they don’t have the energy to do it all, and quite frankly, sometimes when they do things they don’t do it the best way either,” he said. “Enlisting the community and getting them working on some of these solutions is what you want to do.”
Engaging the community and decision-makers is the goal behind the 2013 Northern Housing Conference.
Put on by the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada, this year’s conference, subtitled Housing Outside the Box, is focused on presenting innovative ideas.
“What we wanted to do on this conference was bring in people who have come up with housing solutions that are different than sort of the traditional way we’ve been providing housing,” said Lyon. “I’m not talking about using two-by-fours and plywood and those things, I’m talking about the administration of housing programs and co-opting the communities to actually get together and help solve housing problems that couldn’t be solved any other way.”
When they were researching presenters, everyone kept talking about Denver’s Road Home program, said Lyon.
The program, which started in 2005, set a 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness.
“What Denver did was they challenged a thousand churches in Denver to actually sponsor at least one family, because quite often what these families need is someone to help them be successful living in a house,” said Lyon. “That could mean helping them write a resume so they can get a job or helping them with personal budgeting, all of that sort of mentoring.”
The program was so successful that it ended up reaching its goals two years earlier than expected.
While the situation in Whitehorse isn’t exactly the same as Denver, there are parallels, said Lyon.
“One issue that we see, and I see it because I’m inside Yukon Housing Corporation, is we have people that come in here all the time that have very, very good ideas and have a desire to make things change, but they might not have much depth, or they might not have much financial strength, they might not have much organizational strength, and they can’t do it themselves,” he said.
“Government can’t do it alone. Industry can’t do it alone. But you know what? They did it in Denver. They got all of those players together, and together they were able to satisfy the housing need and solve the problem.”
Two representatives from Denver’s Road Home program will present at the conference, which runs from Monday to Wednesday at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.
Most of Whitehorse’s non-profits and faith-based organizations were given two free passes for the conference, said Lyon.
It’s now completely full, but the public will have a chance to see the presentation by the keynote speaker, architect Avi Friedman.
He’s speaking on Sunday at 7:30 at the Beringia Centre, and also on Tuesday night at the conference, when it will open its doors to the public from 7 to 9 p.m.
Contact Josh Kerr at