The Yukon Housing Corporation’s housing initiatives fund will be open for proposals to create affordable housing projects once a year until 2023. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon government helps fund 10 new affordable housing projects

The projects, supported by the housing initiatives fund, will build 123 new affordable units

The Yukon government will be helping to fund 10 affordable housing projects that will create more than 100 new homes across the territory within the next 18 months, officials announced in a press release Nov. 15.

The projects — seven of which have signed transfer payment agreements and three of which have received funding commitments — are the first ones to receive money from the territorial government’s housing initiatives fund, which the Yukon Housing Corporation (YHC) opened this spring.

The fund, which contained $3.6 million this year, was part of the $6 million in total that the Yukon government has dedicated to affordable housing in the 2018-19 budget. The amount in the fund is expected to change year-to-year depending on that fiscal year’s budget, and there will be an annual call for proposals until 2023.

“We’re leveraging to build a significant number of units … that by ourselves, we might not be able to,” Marc Boucher, YHC’s director of community partnering and lending, said Nov. 16.

“I think it’s an important partnership between industry and government as to addressing the housing issues throughout the Yukon.”

Community housing providers, First Nation governments and development corporations and both non-profit and private-sector bodies can all apply for funding. Criteria for projects include having the new units on the market within 18 months (although Boucher said that, acknowledging the challenges of construction in the North, YHC is willing to be “a bit flexible” on that); keeping the units as affordable housing, which the press release defines as “available at or below median market rent,” for 20 years; having at least one accessible unit; and making all units energy-efficient.

The Yukon government received 20 proposals during its first call for applications, with officials from several government departments, including YHC, health and social services, economic development, energy, mines and resources and community services, evaluating them.

Successful applicants who have signed agreements included:

-45358 Yukon Inc. & Maxavier Real Estate Ltd., whose project involves building 10 units in Whitehorse, including barrier-free, one-bedroom and three-bedroom units, “that will increase the housing available for families and low-income households;”

-Carcross/Tagish First Nation, which will build four two-and-three bedroom units in Carcross to increase housing options for citizens;

-Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, which is already in the process of building 10 tiny homes that will be accessible to “single individuals and elders who need some support in their homes;”

-KBC Developments, which will provide 50 units in Whitehorse for “seniors who need some living support;”

-Ramza Development Ltd., which will build 18 rental housing units in Whitehorse’s Porter Creek neighbourhood;

-Selkirk First Nation, which will be undertaking a pilot project to build four “optimally designed prefabricated homes” in Pelly Crossing;

-and Teslin Tlingit Council, which will build eight units in Teslin to house TTC staff.

The three other successful applicants who have funding commitments are 32125 Yukon Inc., to build 11 units in Whitehorse; Habitat for Humanity Yukon, for four units in Whitehorse; and Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, to build four units in Carmacks.

In total, that means 123 new housing units will be on the market within the next year and a half.

An eleventh successful applicant later withdrew from the fund.

Boucher said that while successful applicants will be required to submit an annual report to YHC for 20 years to ensure that the units remain affordable, the corporation will have no say in who the applicants rent the units to, meaning that people on YHC’s waitlist aren’t guaranteed a unit.

In a phone interview, Yukon NDP MLA Kate White said that while funding the 10 projects is a good step towards addressing housing issues in the territory, there’s still lots of work that needs to be done.

“Any step is a good step, but I mean, they have like a billion-dollar budget,” she said.

“It’s will of government. It’s political will. You have money, you choose how to spend it. If housing was a priority, you’d spend more money there. So, it’s a start … I will give the government credit, that this is the first time they’ve talked about affordability, but then the question is, how do we make sure that affordable housing goes to people who need affordable housing and not to people who don’t?”

Kara Garcia-Rideout, the housing navigator for the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, said that while the projects were a “good start,” they were also just “a drop in the bucket.”

“Even if all the units were built magically by tomorrow, it wouldn’t be enough to address the needs in the Yukon,” she said.

“I’m seeing people from all walks of life that can’t find affordable housing and I’d say that the biggest challenge is for people who are trying to live on social assistance … The amount for total living expenses exceeds the bottom range of rentals available, so if a new rental comes up and it’s billed as at market rate, that sounds good initially, but that means … that anyone who has less than that cannot afford it, so people on (social assistance) are missing the lowest new rentals by hundreds of dollars.”

The next call for proposals will open in January 2019, with the funds coming from the 2019-2020 budget.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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