Whitehorse mayor supports affordable housing plans

Whitehorse’s mayor says it would be irresponsible of him not to support plans to build more affordable housing in the Yukon.

Whitehorse’s mayor says it would be irresponsible of him not to support plans to build more affordable housing in the Yukon.

Mayor Dan Curtis is voicing his support for a plan by the Yukon government to leverage $13 million in federal funding through the Northern Housing Trust to match private and non-government organization investment up to 50-50.

“It’s irresponsible as a mayor not to stand up and say, hey, if the federal government is working with territorial government to leverage tens of millions of dollars in our community and we’re going to say no? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Both the Yukon Real Estate Association and the Yukon Residential Landlord Association have loudly criticized the affordable housing plan. They worry that by funding half the development costs for some builders, it will put other landlords and homeowners at a disadvantage, flood the market with units and offer no guarantee that those most in need of housing will get into affordable homes.

Under the Yukon Housing Corporation’s plan, developers have to agree to set rents at or below 95 per cent of median rates for 10 years. That rate currently stands around $900.

Curtis said the territory is in need of affordable housing rental options, and there is no way to predict what things will look like after 10 years.

“You can’t kill something that doesn’t exist. You can’t kill affordable housing because affordable housing does not exist in Whitehorse, nor the Yukon,” said Curtis.

“I just feel it’s irresponsible for an association of that kind of weight to start throwing stuff like that out because what we’re looking at is tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure coming into our community and other communities as well.”

Five projects have been identified for funding. The agreements have so far been kept confidential while the Yukon Housing Corporation works out the final details.

The corporation has said three of the approved projects are being built in Whitehorse.

That’s about 75 units, mostly bachelor and one-bedroom apartments between 320 and 600 square-feet.

Two projects are being funded outside of Whitehorse, though no one has said where.

“I think it would be irresponsible to say that good development and a diversified downtown Whitehorse would be a bad thing and I’m in shock a little bit, quite frankly, that the real estate association would be anti-development for the downtown core or anywhere else in the Yukon,” Curtis said.

The city offers its own incentive for developers building rental units in Whitehorse.

The development incentive policy offers a maximum of $500,000 in tax incentives over 10 years if a building has at least 10 rental units.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com