Solutions for the housing crisis

Recent news of the Roadhouse closing its doors is terribly distressing. Twenty-three more people without adequate housing.

Recent news of the Roadhouse closing its doors is terribly distressing.

Twenty-three more people without adequate housing. And where will they go? Who will help them find housing? Who will offer up new housing options that are affordable, safe and adequate? What can we, as a community, do to help solve the broader housing crisis?

Who is responsible for ensuring Whitehorse citizens have a place to call home?

Are we, as citizens, ready to take this issue on? Are our elected officials?

Whitehorse is a beautiful community of over 26,000. Employment levels are solid. According to the 2010 Official Community Plan, residents value the natural beauty and closeness to nature of Whitehorse, our sense of community, our local businesses, our quality of life, our vibrant arts and cultural community and the contributions of First Nations.

The community plan also states that we value leadership and are proud of our accomplishments and support innovators and new ideas.

No one can deny that Whitehorse is experiencing a housing crisis. According to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the September vacancy rate for rental accommodation was 0.8 per cent.

The average house sold for $368,800 in the second quarter of 2010. If you are a single person on social assistance, your benefits will cover $501; a family of four’s shelter allowance is $822.

The waiting list for Yukon Housing sits at 142 files, Grey Mountain has 80 on their wait list.

The Salvation Army emergency shelter is being used as housing and the hostels are often full. Workers can’t find housing, and what can be found is often unaffordable or inadequate.

We have four levels of government and according to the Yukon Volunteer Bureau, over 80 health and social nongovernmental organizations working in and around Whitehorse.

Yet appropriate and sufficient housing eludes us.

The challenges of working together coupled with the complexities of meeting a variety of community needs can seem daunting.

In fact, it can lead to paralysis. And those who need housing remain without options.

Thankfully, there are answers.

The Housing Task Force of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, for example, has been working hard to develop a Housing Action Plan for Whitehorse.

Called A Home for Everyone, the strategy is an effort to focus information and ideas gathered from every part of the community to provide more and better housing options for all Whitehorse residents.

A Home for Everyone believes:

* Housing is a human right; safe, secure, affordable housing should be available to all citizens.

* Our community has the ability and creativity to solve the housing crisis.

* We have enough evidence to move forward – we don’t need to study it any more.

* Working together – collaboratively – will get us there.

* Other cities have been where we are; we can learn from their successes.

* A Housing First approach makes for healthier communities.

A Home for Everyone will be released in February. It includes recommendations that require leadership. And collaboration. And partnerships.

It requires that our elected representatives take a broad view and work together to find solutions. Hard decisions need to be made so that new housing can be built, old housing can be revitalized, legislation like the Yukon Landlord and Tenant Act can be improved and good ideas coming from the community can be acted upon.

It is our invitation to you to be a part of a collaborative and systematic effort to provide more and better housing options for Whitehorse citizens. What we need is leadership, action and a commitment to make Whitehorse a community where everyone has a home.

And in the meantime, if you have ideas for any of the 23 people who will be homeless at the end of February, call the Yukon Anti-poverty Coalition at 334-9317. Maybe we can find some solutions together.

(The next monthly meeting of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition is Thursday, February 17th at 5:00 pm at CYO Hall, corner of 4th and Steele. Everyone is welcome.)

Article submitted by members of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition Housing Task Force.