The long-term goal of a new housing policy for government employees is to ensure that workers arrive and stay in communities. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

New government housing policy seeks to attract more employees to communities

‘There’s a lot more demand for staff housing than there is supply’

As of the end of May, the Yukon government is limiting how long government employees can live in government staff housing.

Government employees living and working in the communities will be allowed to stay in government housing for a maximum of three years. The policy permits extensions in some cases.

“There’s a lot more demand for staff housing than there is supply, but currently we don’t have any duration limits, so some staff can stay in housing for a long, long time and that makes it hard to recruit new staff and provide housing for them,” said Eva Wieckowski, director of client relations at the Yukon Housing Corporation, which manages government employee housing in the communities.

The new policy replaces a 25-year-old one.

“We’re trying to update it to address the operational challenges that impede the efficient and effective delivery of the employee program,” Wieckowski said.

Existing tenants are being grandfathered in.

Leases with departments will also be discontinued in the next 12 months.

Officials say the idea is to encourage employees to arrive and stay in communities.

“We really want to get our employees out into communities, because having employees and their families based in communities adds to the social and economic health of the community,” said Nigel Allan, director of communications of the Public Service Commission.

The long-term goal, Wieckowski said, is to create a program that will encourage employees will eventually set up permanently.

“Our intention is to put a program together to incentivize staff to be able to purchase or build their own dwelling,” she said. “That program has not been put together yet, but that is our intention to do so in the relatively near term.

The new policy introduces a two-tiered system to ensure that people with high priority or hard to fill positions are housed quickly. For instance, a teacher would be chosen first over, say, a conservation officer. Two waitlists that correspond with each class will be created.

Rental rates will also be going up for government employees so that rent is on par with market-based rent, that is if the community is big enough to have one.

Existing tenants will see an increase of roughly 2.2 per cent per year, a gradual increase, effective July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020, Allan said. The increase only applies to members belonging to the Yukon Teachers’ Association at this time. The Yukon Employees’ Union is in the process of negotiating a new collective agreement with the government.

New tenants will pay market-based rent. For a community like Dawson City, for instance, a one-bedroom apartment would be $1,000, according to data provided by the YHC.

“A big part of it is making it more fair and equitable, so it’s on par with the private market, as well, so employee housing isn’t competing with the private market,” Allan said. “It’s basically to reduce disparity with rentals in the private sector.”

Where there isn’t a market-based rent, housing will be considered a taxable benefit.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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