The three parties tackle housing

In his Copperbelt South riding, Arthur Mitchell keeps meeting Yukoners struggling to make mortgage payments. "People can't afford to live here," said the Liberal leader. "I've even heard this from mining executives."

In his Copperbelt South riding, Arthur Mitchell keeps meeting Yukoners struggling to make mortgage payments.

“People can’t afford to live here,” said the Liberal leader.

“I’ve even heard this from mining executives.”

On Wednesday, the Liberals laid out their plan to address the housing crisis.

The government is the biggest landowner, said Mitchell.

And it should be selling that land at cost.

“Instead, the government is selling it at market value.”

And market value changes daily, said Mitchell, who watched government resell one lot on his street three times, every time for a higher price.

“They kept repricing it to match the rising market value,” he said.

“That’s the government itself bringing up the cost of housing.”

The Liberals are promising to sell land at cost.

They’ve also promised to double the homeowners grant and offer renters a $600 refundable Yukon tax credit.

And they plan to broaden Yukon Housing Corporation’s mandate to allow landlords to apply for rental renovation grants, to improve the quality of rental units in the territory.

The Liberals have also been in talks with local First Nations about developing leased land.

“When you take the land costs out of the equation, it can reduce the cost of a home by $120,000,” said Mitchell.

“When a modest home costs more than half-a-million dollars, that’s impacting more than just the working poor,” he said.

“With the rising costs of housing, heating fuel, and mortgages, people’s wages are not commensurate to the costs of housing.”

Riverdale North Liberal candidate Christie Richardson knows all too well what Yukoners face when it comes to housing.

The local mortgage broker has seen it firsthand.

“For too long, Yukoners have struggled with the housing shortage and it has only gotten worse during the last mandate of failed Yukon Party leadership,” she said.

“It’s time Yukoners had a government willing and able to deal with the challenges facing our families today.”

Doubling the homeowners grant will cost government $3.5 million, and the rental tax credit will cost an additional $2.5 million.

The Liberals also plan to modernize the Landlord and Tenant Act and stimulate the economy by funding the Yukon Housing Corporation’s lending programs for: home ownership, owner-build, green mortgage, mobile home purchase assistance, mobile home relocation, R-2000 and home completion.

“The Yukon Party has failed to act or plan ahead,” said Mitchell.

“The Liberal Party’s commitment to make more land available and provide programs to build affordable housing not only stimulates our economy, but allows families and workers to stay here in Yukon,” he said. “Darrell Pasloski can keep trying to take credit for Dennis Fentie’s mismanaged economy, but he disrespects Yukoners by failing to acknowledge the blind eye his government has turned towards our housing crisis.” (Genesee Keevil)

The NDP approach

The New Democrats were the first to announce their housing platform.

Standing before a government-owned, empty lot in downtown Whitehorse, leader Liz Hanson called the current housing shortage the single biggest failure of the Fentie/Pasloski government.

She then listed her party’s ideas and promises to work with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to free up more lots, focus on re-establishing the Yukon Housing Corporation, develop a Homeowners Protection Act and take immediate action on the remaining $16 million, which would include an emergency transition shelter for the homeless before Christmas.

Standing with supporters and women shelter staff in the Fireweed Market Thursday, Lois Moorcroft added housing for women fleeing abuse to the list.

The government has long promised second-stage housing at Kaushee’s Place, Whitehorse’s downtown women’s shelter, but it hasn’t delivered, she said.

“I’m not very confident in a government that keeps re-announcing things that it doesn’t do,” she said.

The Yukon Party promises were made in 2009 and 2010, but an agreement has never been signed, she said.

The shelter has been working on the plans for second-stage housing for 11 years, said Barbara McInerney, executive director of Kaushee’s Place.

“There’s been continuous stats updated, different departments of government have been involved … but there’s nothing that has been signed,” she said, mentioning most recent talks about location and design with the Department of Highway and Public Works.

“But I’ve only had verbal confirmations.”

On Wednesday, landlord and NDP candidate for Porter Creek North, Mike Tribes, stood in his driveway in between fellow Whitehorse candidates Jan Stick and Kate White.

Stick, the candidate for Riverdale South, outlined the party’s intentions to increase staff housing in the communities and improve housing standards across the territory.

Tribes promised the NDP would change the Landlord Tenant Act.

“I’d like to clarify the landlord and tenant act so that landlords and tenants have a better understanding of some of the things in the act that just aren’t clear and create more conflict then there needs to be,” he said. “As well as having a better, clearer, dispute-resolution process.”

There was a review done of the act, by a government-appointed committee made up of Steve Nordick, Steve Cardiff and Darius Elias, in 2009.

But nothing has been done with the review’s recommendations.

“It’s there,” said Tribes. ” We would actually take that information and redo the act.”

And they would do it within one year of forming government, said Takhini-Kopper King candidate Kate White.

Tribes knows the housing crunch has resulted in some landlords taking advantage, and adds that while changes to the act will help, the only real solution will be making more lots available. (Roxanne Stasyszyn)

The Yukon Party approach

The Yukon Party government announced on Wednesday a nine-point commitment to build more housing.

The most notable promise is to build a youth shelter in Whitehorse. This is a significant change in direction: until now, the Yukon Party government has played down the need for such a facility.

Nearly one year ago, Health Minister Glenn Hart did commit to building a homeless shelter of some kind. But he’s been cool to the idea of building one that caters exclusively to youth, until now.

It’s not yet clear whether the shelter would be a new or existing building.

Currently, youth are able to sleep at the Sarah Steele Building. This is a less than ideal location, as the building primarily caters to adults admitted in a detoxification program for substance abusers.

The Youth of Today Society wants to host a youth shelter at its Angel’s Nest building. But the territory snubbed the society’s requests for funding to date, after expressing doubts about the society’s ability to properly run such a facility.

Also, the Yukon Party intends to create more lots, said Premier Darrell Pasloski on Wednesday.

“We need to get back to the day where you could go to the counter and buy a lot,” he said.

To do this, a newly elected Yukon Party government will raise title on Crown land and sell it to private developers.

“We’ve had a great, prosperous economy and we haven’t been able to keep up with it,” he said. “We’re going to create incentives to build some apartments here, we’re also going to assure that we title land to get it out there in the private sector so that people can get things moving.”

There is already one section of Crown land, in between Mountainview Drive and Range Road, that is ready to go with a rental unit design, he said, but no exact timeline has been decided.

The other commitments are to:

* Build a new seniors complex in Mayo, expected to offer between six to eight units and cost between $2 to $2.5 million.

* Replace McDonald Lodge in Dawson City, with a new facility to be attached to the new hospital. This is an old commitment, which predates plans to build Dawson’s new hospital.

* Build second-stage housing for women fleeing violence, to be run by Kaushee’s Place in Whitehorse, for $4.5 million. It’s unclear whether this amount includes $1 million in work promised in July.

* Expand Options for Independence’s complex for adults with fetal-alcohol spectrum disorder, from six to 24 units for $2 million. This operation has been expanded with the help of federal funds since 2009.

* Continue work on the Abbeyfield complex in Whitehorse, for $2.57 million. Work on this seniors’ facility has been ongoing since at least 2009.

* Build three duplexes in Takhini to be used as social housing, for $2.2 million.

* Purchase eight double-wide trailers to be used as social housing: four for Carmacks and four for Ross River, for $2.2 million.

* Free up land to build new student residences at Yukon College. Earlier this week, the Liberal Opposition made a similar commitment. (John Thompson, with files from Roxanne Stasyszyn)

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