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Plan to bring ‘permanently affordable housing’ to the Yukon unveiled

Thirty-two unit building with variety of appartment sizes proposed.
Northern Community Land Trust executive director Mark Wickham, left, discusses plans for the community land trust housing project during an open house held at Yukonstruct on Nov. 14. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

In a time when all that is affordable today seems unlikely to remain so tomorrow, one group in the Yukon has designed a housing development they hope will help break that cycle.

On Nov. 14, the Northern Community Land Trust Society unveiled early-stage designs for a 32-unit housing development. The land trust’s proposed development is different from other new housing in that it will have price protection built in to the project before ground is broken on the first foundation.

The land trust, guided by a volunteer board, is seeking to create not-for-profit housing that will be rendered “permanently affordable” by selling units at cost with the understanding that future sales will be priced at cost plus inflation.

Among those on the land trust board is Tyler Heal, who is serving as its secretary-treasurer. Heal said the model the land trust is looking to bring to the Yukon aims to offer less financialized housing that people will be able to purchase to live in without thoughts of making a bunch of money on a future sale.

“So for the model here, you own the home, you can live in it for as long as you want, but in exchange for getting it at that affordable price in the first point, you have to pass a lot of that affordability to the next person,” Heal said.

To create that affordability in the first place, Heal said a donation of land is usually required but things are looking positive on that front, and a site for the development is likely to be secured soon. He added that there are grants through various levels of government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation that might also assist the project. Funding has already been received through the Community Housing Transformation Centre, a nationwide organization that backs community housing projects.

Heal said that as the community land trust looks to make the project a reality, they are able to look at the successes enjoyed by land trusts elsewhere. He said along with hundreds of land trusts in the United States and the United Kingdom, there are a few dozen in Canada. He said the ones in Whistler, British Columbia and Canmore, Alberta are of particular interest because those communities are similar in size and have similar cost pressures to Whitehorse.

Work on the project began just over a year and a half ago.

Heal said a highlight of the process so far has been hearing from a focus group. The group, six people drawn from the approximately 200 who answered a survey about the project, were able to share their priorities and guide the design of the building.

An open house at Yukonstruct featured numerous concept images of the proposed Northern Community Land Trust Society affordable housing project. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

Concept drawings and other preliminary plans were shared with the public at the Nov. 14 event. Shown on posters throughout a meeting room at Yukonstruct and in a 3D-rendered video was two C-shaped buildings facing a courtyard with a fire pit. Most of the ground-floor units in the building are shown with small, fenced backyards and the property is shown with garden plots and a playground on site. The units in the proposed buildings will range from micro suites to three-bedrooms. Some of the two-bedrooms units are set to be designated “barrier free” with a focus on accessibility for residents who use a wheelchair or have other mobility challenges.

Construction is expected to begin in 2023. The units are expected to be priced low enough that they will be affordable for households earning below 80 per cent of the Yukon median income. Some are projected to sell for as low as $120,000.

Heal said an application process for prospective buyers of the units is likely to be opened next spring. This is likely to include an income test; Heal said a key goal of the project is making the units available for working-class families. Eight of the homes are being set aside for single-parent families and some might also be reserved for First Nations citizens. The applications are set to commence before construction begins.

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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