Making garden suites sweeter

Yukon Housing Corp. wants to help Whitehorse house more people in existing neighbourhoods. It announced a program of low-interest loans to assist homeowners build detached rental suites on their property.

Yukon Housing Corp. wants to help Whitehorse house more people in existing neighbourhoods.

It announced a program of low-interest loans to assist homeowners build detached rental suites on their property.

“Hopefully it will address some of the affordable-housing concerns in the city,” said Marc Perreault, the corporation’s director of program delivery.

However, the loan program may be putting the cart before the Whitehorse.

Under current city bylaws, these detached units, commonly called garden or granny suites, can only be built in country residential zones, must be temporary and can only be occupied by relatives.

Last week, city staff recommended zoning amendments to remove these restrictions, and allow people to build small rental units on their property.

Even if council approves the bylaw changes, the decision won’t be made until the end of May at the earliest.

“I’ve learned not to speculate on what decisions are going to come,” said senior planner Mike Ellis.

Wednesday, Ellis hosted a public meeting on the garden suite zoning and other proposed bylaw changes.

Many wanted to build the units, but worried their lots were too small, said Ellis.

“We’ve heard strong public support for this,” said Ellis.

That didn’t surprise Ellis as much as the housing corporation’s new loan program.

“I sent them information on what we were proposing but that was the extent of the discussion,” he said.

The program offers homeowners a loan of up to $25,000 amortized over 10 years.

The interest rate on the loan is pegged at two percentage points lower than the current five-year mortgage rate – a loan taken out today would have an interest rate of 2.5 per cent.

There was really no consultation with the city about the loan program, said Perreault

“We work with the city all the time, but there’s no co-ordination here other than we are hoping this addresses some of their densification needs,” he said.

Building garden suites to code can be more expensive than people expect, so this loan program is very timely, said Ellis.

“It’s great news for sure.”

There won’t be any more public meetings on the issue, but Ellis said he still wants the public to feel free to email him.

“It’s all just been proposed and we really would love more input,” he said.

The planning department has proposed several zoning amendments they hope will be approved in time for the summer building season.

“We’re just trying to create more housing,” said Ellis. “We are in a situation where we just need as much as we can get.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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