Housing solutions studied

Housing Minister Scott Kent wants to create a territorial program to help spur home ownership. "We have a lot of people that are in rental right now that aren't able to save that down payment and move into the entry-level housing," said Kent.

Housing Minister Scott Kent wants to create a territorial program to help spur home ownership.

“We have a lot of people that are in rental right now that aren’t able to save that down payment and move into the entry-level housing,” said Kent. “There’s a stalling in the housing continuum.”

High rental rates, ballooning house prices and now stricter mortgage rules have all made the dream of owning a home increasingly difficult to achieve.

So Kent has directed the Yukon Housing Corporation to look at model programs from around the country. One example is the Attainable Homes Calgary Corporation.

Established in 2009, the non-profit organization tries to help middle-income families buy houses. It does that by buying large blocks of condos and negotiating favourable deals with developers.

The five to 10 per cent that they’re able to save off the top is rolled into a small equity stake for the new owners.

“What we do is reduce the price with the builder so we have enough room for the down payment. We build that back into the purchase price so that their mortgage amount is reflected as an amount between five and 10 per cent below the actual cost,” said Tara Cooney, the sales and marketing manager for Attainable Homes Calgary.

The people it helps still have to qualify for a regular mortgage through a bank.

“Obviously they have to have good credit and all of those kind of things,” she said. “Really, it’s the same as you or I going out and purchasing a home, with the exception of, because of the high cost of rent or their personal circumstances, they simply haven’t been able to save up for the down payment.”

Those are exactly the kinds of people that Kent wants to target in the Yukon.

“Its not a new idea that we’re coming up with, but it’s new to the Yukon, obviously,” he said. “I think that this model has proven itself in areas with similar market conditions, or even more extreme, such as Calgary.”

But while Calgary’s housing prices are similar to those in Whitehorse, the market pressures are very different.

When Attainable Homes was formed three years ago, the Calgary housing market had found itself sideswiped by the recession.

“We saw that there were a lot of properties that were partially under construction or stopping because there was so much supply, and suddenly there was no demand,” said Cooney. “We figured that builders would be a little bit more willing to look at a program such as ours, that would buy a large number of units, because it certainly helps from their financing perspective.”

Kent hasn’t yet decided what sort of program to use. “There are a lot of different models. We just want to make sure that we come up with one that will work for those that we are trying to help,” he said.

Whatever the government decides to do, it should proceed with caution, said Keith Halliday, a Whitehorse-based economist.

“I think that the experience that lots of countries have had during the housing bubble and the financial crisis has shown that there can be unintended consequences and risks around programs like this that encourage people, sometimes prematurely, to get into the housing market,” he said.

What the Yukon really needs is a “supply-side solution” to spur the creation of more affordable housing, said Halliday.

Whistler and Vancouver have both developed initiatives that used cheap public land to build entry-level housing below the market rate, he said.

“Demand-side initiatives can use public money to reduce the pain for a small number of beneficiaries of the program, but they don’t necessarily result in more units being built in the housing market,” said Halliday. “Economics teaches us it’s about supply and demand together, and the government should have a balanced portfolio of initiatives on both sides.”

There is some action on the supply side. This summer, construction will continue in the Ingram subdivision, and lots will be issued by lottery for the first phase of Whistle Bend subdivision.

On Monday, Yukon MP Ryan Leef and Kent celebrated the completion of six new social housing units in the Takhini subdivision with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Those units, along with 14 others in Ross River and Carmacks that are almost finished, were paid for with stimulus money from the federal government. Since 2009, that fund has allowed the Yukon Housing Corporation to add 139 new units to its stock.

But even with all that, the Yukon government simply isn’t doing enough, said Kate White, the NDP’s housing critic.

“First and foremost, the Yukon Party government needs a housing strategy,” she said.

The recent failure to attract private interest to build affordable housing on Lot 262 and the impending conversion of apartments at Sternwheeler Village into condos are cases in point, said White.

With $13 million in affordable housing money still sitting in the territory’s coffers, it’s not a question of resources, she said.

“We’re waist-deep in the housing crisis and we’re going to investigate (an attainable housing strategy) as a possible solution, said White.

“This is step in the right direction, but it’s too little.”

Contact Josh Kerr at


Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read