Ideals clash at city’s land crunch forum

‘We have a lot of sheds and shacks here (in Whitehorse) that people are spending a lot of money to rent; they’re the type of places that…

‘We have a lot of sheds and shacks here (in Whitehorse) that people are spending a lot of money to rent; they’re the type of places that people crawl to to die,” says Erica Heuer.

It’s time to tear down those old, single-family homes that are past their prime and build affordable, multifamily dwellings in Whitehorse, she told the CBC North-sponsored land crunch forum on Thursday evening.

“That’s infill — not trying to develop on more and more greenspace,” she said.

During the 90-minute forum, the public was given an opportunity to raise concerns and make suggestions to deal with the current land crunch.

However, many people, including Heuer, doubted whether the public’s concerns were being taken seriously.

“Even though we are asked for public input, it doesn’t seem to make the types of differences that the public would like it to have,” said Heuer.

“What’s the point of public consultation that dismisses the public as a vocal minority and marginalizes people that care about where they live?”

“Do you assume that because you come out and make a comment that you’re the only person we listen to?” asked city councillor Doug Graham.

“We hear from many people at public hearings and we also hear from the people that don’t want to go to the hearings because they’re afraid they’ll be ridiculed if they say something in opposition with the group.”

Graham sat on a panel at the front of the room joined by representatives of government, the private sector and First Nations.

Deputy chief Gail Anderson of the Ta’an Kwanch’an Council discussed her government’s plans for developing on its land.

“We want to draw people to our land to get a bigger tax base and get more money for our people,” she said.

Historically, the territorial government has been the only land developer, explained Eric Magnusson, assistant deputy minister of the department of Community Services.

“This is because of our small, boom/bust economy. You need large capital investment and that’s a big risk for private developers.”

However, the housing market is maturing and if private companies are now more willing to shoulder that risk then the territory would hand over the responsibility, he said.

Brad Taylor, who developed Pine Ridge, the first privately developed subdivision in the city, agreed.

“Right now we’re dealing with two separate governments,” he said.

“The issue could be much better resolved if the land was transferred to the city of Whitehorse from the territorial government.”

“There’s an assumption that we must continue to grow,” said Jennifer Regan.

“But we need to look at why we’re choosing to live here — do we really want to develop any more?”

“As a long-term resident, yes I want the city to grow,” said real estate agent Dan Lang.

“I realize we have to have guidelines, but if you don’t have economic growth then you’re going to go backwards.”

Many first-time homebuyers, and single-parent families are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the market with prices so high.

“We need affordable housing,” said Faro land developer Ian Robertson.

“Affordability means choice; it doesn’t necessarily mean social housing.”

Some of the public doubted whether there even is a land crunch.

“There’s lots of land,” said John Edzerza.

“Don’t tell me that there’s not enough land. I feel like we’re being forced to live in Copper Ridge.”

“We most definitely have a land crunch, just look at the numbers from the past few years,” said Graham.

He described the current land crunch as a “perfect storm.”

“There are some things that we can do to relieve the current shortage, and then if it takes five years to do this right, then take five years.

“But that means we’re going to have to start planning five years in advance and that’s what we’re not doing right now.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read