Housing crisis fixes wait on YTG

The housing crisis is going to get worse before it gets better, says the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. And it's not going to get better at all without the territorial government at the table, said anti-poverty housing task force member Patricia Bacon.

The housing crisis is going to get worse before it gets better, says the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

And it’s not going to get better at all without the territorial government at the table, said anti-poverty housing task force member Patricia Bacon.

The housing task force released its 24-page housing action plan, A Home for Everyone, on Monday.

It paints a bleak picture.

Transitional housing for women fleeing violence, and street-involved youth is “insufficient or non-existent,” says the report.

But there’s a solution.

Kaushee’s Place – which offers limited housing to victims of violence and often has a long waitlist – has had a new second-stage housing plan in the works for almost a decade.

Designed by local architect Jack Kobayashi, the 10-unit apartment building would be classy and utilitarian and would include an open-air room for children to play behind a two-metre fence.

“We’ve been working on this project since 2001,” said Kaushee’s executive director Barbara McInerney in a previous interview with the News.

With its plans in place, the second-stage housing team approached the Women’s Directorate, its minister Marian Horne, officials at Health and Social Services, the Yukon Housing Corporation, the city and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to lobby for funding.

But it hasn’t been able to drum up any support.

The anti-poverty coalition report recommends building this second-stage housing immediately.

It also recommends building supportive housing for people struggling with addictions, mental health issues and disabilities, including FASD.

Currently, supportive housing options are “insufficient or nonexistent,” says the report.

Again, there is a solution.

The Northern City Housing Supportive Housing Coalition wants to build a 20-unit supportive housing project for Whitehorse’s homeless, hardcore alcoholics.

The coalition of nonprofits already has architectural plans drawn up for the facility. It’s found builders willing to do the job for a cut rate, and it has a plan to pay for it.

But that depends on government support.

In October, the Liberals and NDP tabled a motion in the legislature asking the government to support the coalition’s efforts and ensure the project is approved.

Five months later, Northern City is still waiting.

The anti-poverty coalition report recommends building Northern City’s supportive-housing facility immediately, so it’s operational by 2012.

There’s also an “insufficient” supply of social housing units, according to the report.

And there are not enough affordable places to rent.

“This is a crisis of large proportions,” said anti-poverty co-chair Bill Thomas.

With a vacancy rate of less than one per cent, rental rates have skyrocketed.

And in the Yukon there are no minimum rental standards, added task force member Charlotte Hrenchuk.

So apartments can be mouldy, leaking, rodent-filled, have unsafe wiring and still be on the market for upwards of $1,000 a month.

Waiting to pay for gas at Tags on her way to media briefing, Hrenchuk heard a woman in line in front of her talking about how unaffordable the housing market is in Whitehorse.

“Maybe I should just move away,” Hrenchuk overheard her say.

“We want to make Whitehorse a place people want to stay in, instead of them moving away because they can’t find an appropriate place to live,” said Hrenchuk.

In the fall, a select committee reviewed the Yukon’s aged landlord and tenant act and made a number of recommendations to improve the territory’s housing situation.

Since then, nothing has changed.

“If the government moved forward with these changes, it would do a lot to protect landlord and tenant rights,” said anti-poverty coalition member Christina Craig.

The anti-poverty coalition is calling on the community to help solve the problem.

“We mean what we say, when we say, ‘A home for everyone,’” said Thomas, referencing the report’s title.

And the not-in-my-backyard attitude has to go, he said.

“Everyone is a leader, not just YTG,” he said.

Bacon brought up the Rent Well program, which compensates landlords who rent to higher-risk tenants, as an example of what the community could do to help solve the problem.

Something has to change, she said.

Right now, as executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions, Bacon sees clients coming to the centre’s drop-in just to catch up on sleep after spending the night on the streets.

Although the anti-poverty coalition is reaching out to the community to help solve the housing crisis, the most important player remains the Yukon government.

“Housing is extremely expensive,” said Bacon.

“And it cannot happen without them at the table.”

The housing task force is meeting with Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway on March 7.

The task force also plans to meet with Premier Dennis Fentie, First Nation leaders and any interested community members.

We don’t want this report to be shelved, said anti-poverty coalition member Laurie MacFeeters.

“Two words – action now,” said Hrenchuk.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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