City of Whitehorse administration has officially been tasked with developing a housing and land development advisory committee.
Council was unanimous in a vote, at its Feb. 28 meeting, directing administration to get the committee started along with the final framework for it.
The decision comes after council’s initial request in December that city staff bring forward information about the possibility of a committee, given the major shortage and high cost of housing in Whitehorse.
In a Feb. 21 report to council, Wendy Donnithorne, the city’s manager of legislative services, outlined the possibilities, proposing the committee be made up of between five and eight individuals involved in land and housing, who live in Whitehorse.
The terms of reference to be drafted would provide further membership details.
Council members have highlighted numerous issues around housing since taking office in November. It was also a key election issue leading up to the new council taking office.
While council was unanimous in voting to have staff work to develop the committee, both councillors Ted Laking and Kirk Cameron highlighted concerns over committee membership.
Laking was the first to speak, taking issue with having an even number of committee members, which could result in tie votes.
As Donnithorne explained a week earlier, as with council, any such vote by the committee would result in a matter being defeated.
“I think that we are unintentionally setting up a committee that will have a high likelihood of having difficulties making decisions,” Laking said. “I think that we’re better off to have a committee with an odd number of members so that there is less likelihood of tie votes because I think we want this committee to be swift and decisive.”
He suggested the maximum number of committee members be either reduced or increased by one to ensure an odd number.
Laking also pointed to the “housing affordability crisis” in the city when he spoke, noting this is “an essential piece to help us solve that issue.”
The city has tools available such as planning, policies and procedures, he said.
Beyond developing Whistle Bend, Laking suggested the city can use its tools to encourage a wide range of housing options in Whitehorse. More rentals, mobile homes, small lots and other options in a variety of areas are needed, he said.
“I think we need to look at our development procedures, and our bylaws and processes, in which we may unintentionally be slowing down development or making it more onerous and thus more costly to the end consumer,” Laking said, noting committee members may bring an important perspective from outside of government on the issue.
Meanwhile, Cameron said he would like to see a more open approach taken to determining who can serve on the committee. He noted he’s already heard from a number of community members in economics and at financial institutions interested in the committee, should it go ahead.
“I would suggest that we don’t want to necessarily restrict it so much that we lose the depth and breadth of experiences out there in our community,” he said.
Cameron also suggested that once the committee brings recommendations to help address housing and land development, consultations on those also be done with the broader community.
“So that we get various other perspectives brought to the question; not just those narrowly focused on individuals who have a very strong involvement in housing and in land development,” he said, adding he’s looking forward to the final terms of reference coming forward and seeking committee members.
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