Mortgage program pilfered, say Liberals

Despite accusations Yukon Housing Corporation's mortgage funding is being "siphoned off," the minister responsible is refusing to provide budget details.

Despite accusations Yukon Housing Corporation’s mortgage funding is being “siphoned off,” the minister responsible is refusing to provide budget details.

In only three weeks, Yukon Housing spent its entire $7-million mortgage budget. At least five applicants were turned away.

Opposition members insinuated that part of the mortgage budget had been rerouted into other programs.

“The mortgage portfolio is dynamic,” said Jim Kenyon, minister responsible for Yukon Housing. “It moves all the time.”

Twice, the minister has skirted questions about mortgage funding being misallocated.

“Yukoners need to know how much of the $7 million allocated in the budget was actually spent as intended,” said Liberal MLA Gary McRobb on Monday.

“This information should not be kept secret,” he said.

It’s “offensive” to suggest that funds are being siphoned off, said Kenyon on Tuesday.

Only 25 mortgages were granted in 2008, despite a budget of more than $12 million.

The maximum mortgage financing available under the program is $360,000.

Six million had originally been set aside for 2008, but overruns forced a $6-million emergency boost.

By November, the cash-strapped housing corporation had barred any additional mortgage applications.

In 2007, 27 mortgages were granted with a budget of only $6,500,000.

The government is not “in the mortgage business,” said Kenyon on Monday.

For years, Yukon Housing has provided mortgages to bank-refused clients.

Demand was initially low, but global credit difficulties have helped to spur the tidal wave of demand the corporation now faces.

It’s “excellent news” that demand was so high as to “tap out” the mortgage program, said Kenyon last week.

Despite repeated requests for an interview, Yukon Housing officials could not be reached for comment.

When Glenn Smith purchased a housing lot at Whitehorse Copper, he did so on the assurance that he would be able to secure a Yukon Housing mortgage, he said.

Although none were available at the time, Smith was “repeatedly” told to return in April when he would be able to get a mortgage as part of the new budget cycle.

“It wasn’t written in stone, but we were all given the impression that, in the new year, there was going to be lots of money and there should be no issues,” said Smith.

At least three new lot owners, misled by similar assurances, now face the prospect of losing their $20,000 downpayment.

Other lot owners stand to lose even more, having already begun construction.

It’s “insulting” to suggest that Yukon Housing is not accountable, said Premier Dennis Fentie on Thursday.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com

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