More federal cash for housing flows in

The federal government is giving the Yukon more money for affordable housing. That's on the heels of complaints that we can't seem to spend the money we've already got.

The federal government is giving the Yukon more money for affordable housing. That’s on the heels of complaints that we can’t seem to spend the money we’ve already got.

Candace Bergen, federal minister of state for Social Development, was in town Thursday to sign a deal with Community Services Minister Brad Cathers.

This year through 2019 the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will provide the Yukon Housing Corporation with $1.575 million each year to support affordable housing projects.

The territorial government is required to match that amount.

In all, the total comes to about $16 million over the five years.

This new deal isn’t actually all that new. The Investment in Affordable Housing Agreement started in June 2011. This is an extension of that deal.

Money in the Yukon has been used for projects like the Options for Independence housing for people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and seniors residences in Mayo and downtown Whitehorse.

The announcement of more money for the bank account comes after Yukon government cancelled a project designed to build affordable rentals in Whitehorse.

That plan was going to use money from a different federal pot – the Northern Housing Trust – to cover some of the costs for builders if they agreed to keep rents low.

According to the operating principles that were agreed to when the Northern Housing Trust money was part of the federal budget presented in 2006, there was an expectation that the money be used to support “immediate action.”

No specific deadline was attached.

Years later more than $11 million of the $17.5 million allocated to the territorial government still sits in the government account.

When questioned on the Northern Housing Trust money, Cathers repeated the party line that the government made the choice to spend housing money that had a deadline attached, over the Northern Housing Trust money, which did not.

Bergen said the federal government is not concerned that the Northern Housing Trust money hasn’t been completely spent yet, though “certainly we don’t want it held for 50 years.”

“We trust that the provinces and territories are consulting and are funding those decisions based on their priorities. There’s been, I think, a pretty extensive list of projects and affordable housing needs that have been met. … So, we’re satisfied,” she said.

Unlike the Northern Housing Trust money, this latest influx of cash does come with a deadline.

Cathers acknowledged that this latest cash is “use it or lose it” money, and assured the public that the government plans on spending it.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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