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Hurry and release federal lands for housing, Whitehorse city councillor urges

Coun. Ted Laking says a plan and a timeline are long overdue as territory’s population climbs
A federal building on Range Road in Whitehorse is pictured on April 25. Whitehorse Coun. Ted Laking wants the federal government to hurry up and free up underutilized federal lands and properties to make way for housing in the Yukon's capital.

With population estimates pegging the Yukon at close to 55,000 people by 2040, Coun. Ted Laking isn’t too picky about exactly what happens to underused federal properties and lands along Range Road in Whitehorse. 

He just wants the federal government to open them up for housing development now, like the feds have been saying they will do to some underutilized federal properties and lands across the country since 2018. 

Laking told the News by phone on May 7 that he envisions that area along Range Road being identified and divested so it can be turned over to developers — the Yukon government, a First Nation government, a non-government organization or the private sector — to be turned into housing. 

He notes it’d be the first turnover of federal lands or properties for housing in the territory since the federal government started talking about doing it several years ago. 

“We’ve seen those lands roll out in other jurisdictions, but we’ve yet to see any lands roll out here in the Yukon,” he said. 

Laking pictures close to 600 units fitting into that area in the Takhini neighbourhood, although that’s not necessarily where the density should end up. 

“It’s more just illustrative of how much potential is in that land,” he said. 

Laking said there’s likely a case to be made for green space and parks for the community in the area. 

“I think that when you drive by that every day, and you just see a big office building and parking lots sitting there, and you know, particularly with work from home arrangements that now exist for the federal government, it’s just, it’s a very, I think, underutilized property and it’s just unfortunate that it’s sitting there,” he said. 

Laking isn’t “married to any specific solution” on plans for housing. 

“I’d have questions about whether or not that office building would be appropriate for housing,” he said, adding that the building has been flagged for structural issues. 

He suggests purpose-built high-density apartments, some duplexes and single-attached homes could work there, noting it’s close to existing services like a school and public transit and its proximity to downtown. 

“Anything is better than what its current use is,” he said. 

“If we can address housing in a way that people can very easily hop on public transit and make it to work or make it to school, then I think we’re doing our job in addressing some issues around climate and traffic.” 

Laking said he put forward a motion last fall at city council urging the federal government to “get off its hands.” He called for a plan and a timeline by the end of last year. 

Two federal ministers and MP Brendan Hanley recently echoed housing announcements at a press conference in Whitehorse. 

While there’s no fixed timeline, the feds indicated they are speeding up the opening of federal lands and properties for building homes. That could include at least a couple of potential locations in Whitehorse: 419 Range Rd. and 463 Range Rd. 

Laking expected much more to come out of that event. 

“We still haven’t got that plan or timeline from them, and that was really what frustrated me with the announcement that recently was made, was that I was really hopeful that there was a plan and a timeline that was coming out with that and instead it was just, it was more of the same,” he said. 

“Don’t get me wrong: This is a great idea. I think that you need to do this, but we need to get past the photo-op phase and the announcement phase and let’s start getting to the implementation phase.” 

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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