As the City of Whitehorse moves closer to signing a two-year lease on a townhouse to help house new city staff when they arrive in town, a local landlord has been left wondering about the city’s process when it comes to renting out housing.
At Whitehorse city council’s Nov. 9 meeting, council approved the first two readings of a bylaw for the two-year lease agreement on a 1,700 square-foot furnished townhouse at 177 Olive May Way in Whistle Bend for a cost of $2,900 per month.
Lindsay Schneider, the city’s acting director of human resources, told council at an earlier meeting when the proposed lease was brought forward that the city has been renting accommodations at various locations around town for incoming staff who require temporary housing since 2018 when the city’s last long-term lease ended. The city typically provides housing for 30 days with an option for the staff to pay for another 30 days following if they’re unable to find housing in the first month.
In recent cases that has meant paying $3,000 during one month for a one-bedroom suite and nearly $8,000 for a family accommodation (that was rented when many hotels were shut due to COVID).
After the city received no responses to a number of requests for proposals for a housing lease, the city began approaching landlords about rentals they were advertising.
Schneider said most were not willing to furnish the units or had already been rented out when the city contacted the landlord.
“Given that the City has issued several requests for proposals with no response in regards to accommodations, administration has been actively approaching landlords who advertised their rentals to determine whether they would be interested in a two-year lease,” Schneider said. “Most rentals were not willing to furnish or were already spoken for when contacted. This property was just recently posted and the landlord was agreeable to the terms that the City was asking for.”
For Kalen Paul, news of the lease came as a surprise as he had written to the city in September, having heard of the city’s interest in finding rental housing, asking whether there is any application or bid process for landlords that may be interested in renting to the city.
In his email, Paul noted he has a one-bedroom ground level suite in his Granger home and is interested in exploring the opportunity if it is still available. He recalled moving to the city for a job with a private company and having housing provided made a difference for him to get settled in the city.
“I understand the importance of it,” he said.
After learning of the proposed lease agreement for the townhouse on Olive May Way, he emailed the city again Nov. 7, referencing his September email and pointing out he had not heard back from the city.
He also said he had opted to rent his suite to another tenant after not hearing back from the city.
As it turns out his tenant is a city employee who moved to Whitehorse for their job.
Paul requested the city respond to his November email ahead of the Nov. 9 council meeting.
Mayor Dan Curtis provided a reply thanking Paul for his emails and acknowledging the city should have responded sooner.
“Please accept our apologies in regards to the delay in our response,” Curtis wrote. “Your email should have been responded to when it initially came in back in September.
“The city has been searching for a fully furnished accommodation that would house a family unit.
“The city is happy to hear that you were able to rent it to other incoming City of Whitehorse staff. We wish you well with your new tenants,” Curtis wrote.
While Paul doesn’t take issue with his unit not being what the city was looking for, he said the situation makes him wonder how aware local landlords were of the city’s interest in finding accommodations.
As he pointed out, a number of his questions were focused on the general process to apply or submit a proposal for accommodations with the city not returning his initial email. Perhaps, more advertising when the requests for proposals were released would have resulted in a number of rental possibilities.
“You want to have options,” he said, arguing if there was more awareness about the process the city may have been able to have a more competitive process.
Questioned about the city not responding to the initial email in September, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said the city does receive a large amount of email every and misses some from time to time as was the case in September.
He also pointed out the city was not looking for a one-bedroom unit.
Paul said he is interested in learning more about the city’s process for such rentals and is planning to reply to Curtis’ email asking for more details on the process.
Meanwhile, third reading of the bylaw for the lease at 177 Olive May Way will come forward later this month.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org