Leaked budget contains boost for Yukon housing

Ottawa will pledge more than $50 million for affordable housing in the Yukon when it releases its 2006-07 budget on May 2.

Ottawa will pledge more than $50 million for affordable housing in the Yukon when it releases its 2006-07 budget on May 2.

Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie announced the funding Tuesday, after the Globe and Mail published details of the federal budget, a week before its scheduled release.

“There is an initiative that the federal government will be proceeding with that, for the most part, relates to affordable housing needs across the country,” said Fentie.

“That initiative will include a $52.6 million investment over three years for the Yukon territory, to be allocated towards advanced education infrastructure, public transit, and the majority of it, affordable housing.”

Only small percentage of the money will flow to transit and education, he added.

“I’m going to have to wait until all the details come forward. I suspect that this will be in the up-and-coming federal budget.”

Fentie knew about the funding for some time, but respected Ottawa’s wishes to keep it secret until the federal budget was released.

“I now feel that it is incumbent upon me to go public with this.”

Fentie intends to meet with First Nations leaders before deciding how the money will be spent.

“I’ve already been in contact with many First Nation chiefs,” he said.

“My proposal has been to Yukon First Nations already, with respect to affordable housing initiatives, that we convene as quickly as possible a Yukon forum, to jointly develop an investment plan.”

The funding announcement is separate from other pots of money, such as the “northern strategy” and the “targeted investment program” that was known as the northern economic development program under the Liberals.

But Fentie will discuss all possible funding sources for affordable housing with First Nations to establish a “critical mass around manufacturing,” he said.

“The objective here would be to have Yukoners building houses for Yukon communities.”

The funding announcement is separate from the proposed Kelowna Accord, said Fentie.

In November, Canadian premiers met with First Nations leaders and the former Liberal government in Kelowna, BC, and agreed on a $5.1-billion package to close the standard-of-living gap that exists between aboriginals and mainstream Canadian society.

The new Conservative government in Ottawa agreed to the targets and principles of the Kelowna Accord, but not the funding.

Affordable housing was part of the Kelowna agreement.

“I don’t think this supercedes Kelowna,” said Fentie.

“I think it is testimony of advancing the commitments therein, to address the gaps in housing needs across the North.”