The making of a lot shortage

It's common to blame Whitehorse's housing crisis on the lack of foresight by city planners. In 2006, the land development protocol was signed, giving the city full control over planning. Shortly after this, lots began to run out.

It’s common to blame Whitehorse’s housing crisis on the lack of foresight by city planners.

In 2006, the land development protocol was signed, giving the city full control over planning.

Shortly after this, lots began to run out.

But if you ask city planners Mike Gau and Mike Ellis, they’ll tell you the problems began with Porter Creek D.

To understand, a little history lesson is in order, going all the way back to 2005.

Facebook had just celebrated its first birthday.

Hurricane Katrina had devastated New Orleans.

Paul Martin’s Liberals were in power.

And in Whitehorse, plans were afoot to develop the city’s newest subdivision – Porter Creek D.

It was a simpler time, with no evidence of the coming housing shortage.

“There was a big public disbelief that we needed the growth,” said Gau.

“Nobody believed us, or supported the idea of creating more lots while there were still lots in Copper Ridge.”

The 1996 census showed a decline in population in the city. In 2001, there was a small growth, but nothing substantial.

Besides, the Porter Creek Lower Bench – as Whistle Bend was once known – was set for development in 2015.

Everyone thought that this would be enough to meet any possible demand.

This did not bode well for Porter Creek D.

“We were looking for feedback and we got solid opposition, not advancing a concept at all,” said Gau.

“We were looking for ideas for improvements, and it was just, ‘No, no, no.’”

Before the land-development protocol was signed, the Yukon government was involved with the planning process as well.

Citizens opposed to the development complained to their ministers and the mayor and council.

There were three different government departments with a vested interest in Porter Creek D.

Community Services wanted to go ahead with the new development.

Education wanted the area saved for Yukon College endowment lands.

And Environment wanted the land protected for wildlife and recreation.

Because of indecision and all that opposition, the territorial government decided to nix the deal.

“The Yukon government pulled its support because of opposition that was expressed,” said Gau.

“At that point, we had a rough feasibility concept for as many as 400 units. And if that process hadn’t of stopped, we’d have those 400 units and likely avoided this housing shortage that we’re in.”

The Yukon government started a consultation process to come up with an accepted map for Porter Creek D – trying to please all three departments.

This was completed in 2007 and was added to the city’s official community plan.

In the meantime, the city began work on Whistle Bend, which should be completed in 2013.

“We shifted gears and focused on Whistle Bend,” said Gau.

“We moved forward as fast as we could, in terms of providing other opportunities for land development.”

But it wasn’t fast enough.

All of the lots in Copper Ridge were developed in 2008.

Then, in 2010, Whitehorse’s supply dried up.

“In fact, the last few years we had a two or three years worth of supply that would have been a one-year supply in 1998, that was gone in one year,” said Gau.

“The banking of lots was gobbled up in just a few short years, so that caught us behind the eight ball too.”

The city responded with the Ingram subdivision, Takhini North, Stan McCowan and other infill projects,” said Gau.

“But they’re much smaller in scale compared to what Porter Creek D was supposed to produce.”

Porter Creek D is still in the works.

Whitehorse city council will decide this fall about what to do about the development.

Land-development protocol

There were two reasons why the land-development protocol was signed back in 2006, giving all planning powers to the city.

It made it a lot easier on the public, dealing with just one governmental body.

And it also saved a lot of wasted time and money.

With the country residential subdivision Whitehorse Copper, council made some last-minute changes to the road network before it gave its final approval.

But the Yukon government had already spent around $1 million in design, planning and engineering costs, said Gau.

Much of this had to be reworked because of council’s changes.

“The Yukon government wanted more certainty as the developer,” said Gau.

“And city council clearly wanted more control.”

Now, the Yukon government waits until each development receives Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board recommendations and the decision document for the development.

Then it takes over the project and begins the actual developing.

“It’s better for the public too,” said Ellis.

“In the Whitehorse Copper project, the public was bouncing between two political bodies and they didn’t know where to go. So this is just for clarity in some degree and just to make the process go faster.

“It’s just better for everyone.”

Contact Chris Oke at

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target


Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters on May 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Cap on rent increases will take effect May 15

The rollout of the policy is creating ‘chaos,’ says opposition

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Most Read