Middle class moving out

After one year in Whitehorse, John Jones is considering quitting his high-paying job, packing up his young family and heading south.

After one year in Whitehorse, John Jones is considering quitting his high-paying job, packing up his young family and heading south.

“We would love to stay – it’s a little piece of heaven up here,” said the engineer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of employment and housing repercussions.

“But we can’t afford a house.”

Jones isn’t asking for much.

“I’m not after a mansion,” he said.

“I’m just looking for a hectare parcel I can call my own, and I’ve realized that’s not going to happen.”

Jones and his wife graduated from the University of British Columbia a little over a year ago, but didn’t want to stay in Vancouver.

“We both grew up in small towns in the Kootenays and I threw some resumes up there, but the economy is the pits,” he said.

Someone mentioned there might be opportunities in the Yukon, so Jones sent his resume to some local firms.

“I had a job 48 hours later,” he said.

Finding a place to live did not prove so easy.

“If you’re a dog owner, do not move to the Yukon,” said Jones.

Every call he made looking for a place, Jones was told pets weren’t allowed.

If it wasn’t for his new job, Jones and his family wouldn’t have found a place in Whitehorse at all, he said.

Before they arrived, his new receptionist spotted a house for rent in the paper.

By the time she called, four other people were already on the waitlist.

“But because she was calling from a business, and threw in a deposit, she got priority,” said Jones.

Sight-unseen, he and his family moved into the small, two-bedroom house in MacPherson.

Rent was double what they’d been paying in BC for the same-size place.

And while he was stepping into a good job, his paycheque didn’t come close to covering the exorbitant cost of living.

“Our plan was to stay here two years and see if we liked it,” he said.

After just two months, Jones and his family were sold.

“It’s like the Kootenays, but with less people, which suited us just fine,” he said.

But, as the months wore on, Jones started to see the Yukon’s dark side.

“You can get two acres with a house outside Victoria (BC) for $350,000,” he said.

“In Whitehorse, all you can get for that is a condo.

“You can’t even buy a piece of dirt.”

And that’s not the only problem.

“There’s also a lack of security up here,” said Jones.

Coming up on a year in their rental home, the landlord just informed Jones the rent is going up by $300 a month.

“That’s a significant amount,” he said.

Jones and his wife are still paying off student loans and just had a baby.

“I make a decent wage,” he said.

But the increased rent is putting a heavy strain on his finances.

“Compared to BC, Yukon tenants have no rights,” said Jones.

Landlords can raise the rent, or even break the lease and evict you for something as simple as having your music too loud, or parking in the wrong spot, he said.

“And you shouldn’t be penalized for having a family or pets.”

The Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada where landlords can evict tenants without just cause.

The territory’s outdated Landlord and Tenant Act is 39 years old and is chock-full of unintelligible language and obscure details.

It has a section titled “bawdy house convictions,” and another, which lists items a landlord cannot take in exchange for overdue rent: “The following goods and chattels are not liable to seizure by a distress by a landlord for rent,” says the act.

These items include, “perambulators, cradles, a cooking stove with pipes, one washbasin, one tea kettle, one teapot, and cups and saucers.”

The act is also lacking minimum rental standards.

Right now, it’s up to health and safety to inspect building complaints, whether it’s black mould, broken windows, or inadequate heat.

And landlords can jack up the rent every three months, if they wish, as the act has no tenant-protection provisions.

In most jurisdictions there are annual caps on rental rates: in BC it’s 3.2 per cent and in Ontario it’s 2.1 per cent for 2010.

Having a newborn and no home security was already weighing on Jones.

Now, with the jump in rent, he and his family are considering moving away from “this little piece of heaven” after less than a year.

“I like my job, but we’re considering leaving because we have no place to live,” he said.

“With the increased rent, the baby, pets and the chance of being evicted any time, we’d have no choice but to live in one of those tents in front of the legislature.

“And I’m a middle-classer.

“I make a decent wage.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for people making minimum wage up here.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at