Poor economy leads to layoffs at Kareway Homes

A local developer who laid off eight employees this fall says the territory's sagging construction and real estate markets have hit him, and other contractors, particularly hard.

A local developer who laid off eight employees this fall says the territory’s sagging construction and real estate markets have hit him, and other contractors, particularly hard.

Wayne Cunningham, who owns Kareway Homes, said he was forced to lay off some of his staff because there just isn’t enough work right now.

“It’s the slowdown. Every contractor is going through the same thing in town. Some guys have almost totally shut down. Others are cut back to very little. Some people still have units for sale up in Ingram that they built last year and haven’t sold yet,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham owns the Sternwheeler Village, which he’s upgrading from low-rent apartments to retrofitted condos. When the city changed the building code requirements for his units, he got caught in the crosshairs between two difficult forces, he said.

“It’s going ahead, it’s just been slow. There were new rules put in for the Sternwheeler, compared to anyplace else,” he said.

“The changes to the new bylaws, when you convert older units into condos, they have to be brought up to 2010 code. It changed just before we started.”

Cunningham said the code changes caught him by surprise, and he hadn’t planned for the extra costs. That, plus the slow sales and flat economy, put him in a position he couldn’t avoid and the employees had to go.

The slowdown in construction wasn’t helped by the postponing of the F.H. Collins project, Cunningham said. Even though he wouldn’t have been bidding on that project directly, having a project of that size would create trickle-down benefits for developers like him, he said.

“That F.H. Collins, that job was going to be right in Riverdale. All those subtrades would have been coming right to Riverdale, and would have chosen to either rent or buy something off of me, because we’re located so close to the site.

“It’s not totally cancelled. It’ll go ahead next year, but the delays don’t help. When things are in a building boom, they have to slow down some. They can’t continue the way they were. I don’t like slowdowns, but they’re necessary,” he said.

While he continues working to meet the new building codes, Cunningham hopes the upgrades will make his units more appealing.

“It increases the costs, but it’s also a better unit now. It’s a more saleable unit because it’s up to 2010 code and it’s a better building for residents,” he said.

“We’re about two-thirds done, and things are already on the market. We’ve sold about 20 of them,” he said.

But Pat Ross, the city’s manager of planning services, disputes Cunningham’s claim about the changed codes.

The new rules don’t require the whole building to be up to 2010 code, Ross said. Instead, the developer must make sure that the building meets critical life-safety standards. That can include anything from handrails on stairs to the type of insulation, heating and certain structural issues.

But Cunningham knew all of that when he made his application, Ross said.

“When he put forward his proposal, we asked if he would be developing condos. His application was approved conditional upon him completing the life-safety work,” Ross said.

Once the work is completed, Cunningham can apply for an inspection to verify that everything is up to the required standards. Without the completed inspection, Cunningham can’t sell the individual units outright, but he can pre-sell them.

Once the buildings pass inspection, the city will approve the condo licence and Cunningham can start selling the units outright.

“We’re sitting on that condo plan until we see those improvements,” Ross said.

Contact Jesse Winter at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Zhùr, the ancient wolf pup found mummified in permafrost at Last Chance Creek mine in July 2016. (Government of Yukon/Submitted)
‘Mummy’ wolf pup unearthed in permafrost paints a picture of ice age ancestors

Zhùr is the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.

Former premier Tony Penikett begins a presentation at the Whitehorse Public Library about his book, Hunting the Northern Character, on Dec. 11, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former premier named to Order of Canada

Tony Penikett reflects on career

Ed Hopkins starts the 36-mile race at the Carbon Hill Race Day on Jan. 10. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Dogs take over Mount Lorne for Carbon Hill Race Day

The Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon (DPSAY) hosted its annual… Continue reading

As it gets set to turn over ownership of its supportive housing building downtown to Yukon Housing, Options For Independence will not be required to pay back more than $65,000 in City of Whitehorse grants it was provided towards property taxes, decided city councillors on Jan. 11. (John Hopkins-HIll/Yukon News file)
Exemption granted for building transfer

Options For Independence won’t be required to pay back city grants

Mayor Dan Curtis speaks during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on March 9, 2020. Whitehorse property owners can expect their 2021 property tax bills to rise by less than a per cent if the operating budget for the year is adopted as proposed. “A minimal tax increase allows the city to maintain its many existing services and programs, while also supporting important initiatives such as climate change mitigation and enhanced bylaw enforcement,” Curtis said. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Minimal increase proposed for Whitehorse property taxes

Budget would see 0.34 per cent tax increase

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton won’t be runing for re-election. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mayo-Tatchun MLA won’t run for re-election

Liberal MLA Don Hutton won’t be running for re-election. A former wildland… Continue reading

Large quantities of a substance believed to be cocaine, a large amount of cash, several cells phones and a vehicle were all seized after RCMP searched a Whistle Bend home on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy RCMP)
Seven arrested after drug trafficking search

RCMP seized drugs, money from Whistle Bend residence on Jan. 6

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Whitehorse RCMP are seeing a growing trend of vehicle break-and-enters in the Kopper King area. (Black Press file)
Series of break-and-enters in Kopper King area

Series of break-and-enters in Kopper King area Whitehorse RCMP are seeing a… Continue reading

Signage near the newly opened Dawson City ice bridge. (Sandy Silver/Facebook)
Dawson City ice bridge opens

The Dawson ice bridge has opened. In a Jan. 6 social media… Continue reading

Whitehorse RCMP are requesting assistance identifying three suspects who stole tens of thousands of dollars of property from Cobalt Construction on the evenings of Dec. 28, 29, and 30. They were operating a stolen Toyota Camry, which was beige in colour with the license plate HML66. (Photo courtesy RCMP)
RCMP seeking three suspects after burglary

Whitehorse RCMP are requesting assistance identifying three suspects who stole tens of… Continue reading

Most Read