Yukon government unveils housing action plan

Updated: The Yukon government unveiled its 10-year plan to improve the housing problems in the territory. The housing action plan is two years in the making and was released Friday.

Updated:

The Yukon government unveiled last week its 10-year plan to face the territory’s housing challenges.

The housing action plan is two years in the making. It has three major goals: help people who need access to services like emergency shelters, transitional housing and supportive living; increase access to affordable rental units; and make it easier for Yukoners to become home owners.

Stacey Hassard, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, says this plan is more than just wishful thinking.

More than 70 groups including municipalities, First Nations, Yukon government departments, churches, banks and non-profit organizations took part in the planning.

“I honestly don’t believe that this is something that will sit on a shelf somewhere to collect dust, like so many others,” he said.

“I believe the commitment is there from the government, as well as the people, to continue to move forward and see this plan… bloom into something great, I guess.”

An implementation group is being formed and the Yukon government has committed $240,000 annually for the next two years to get the ball rolling.

It will be up to the committee to decide which priorities to tackle first, said housing corporation president Pamela Hine.

The committee is still being finalized, but will include representatives from the same sort of organizations that took part in the earlier planning, she said.

Opposition critic Kate White said she is hopeful that with an implementation committee and the minister’s acknowledgment that other reports have been collecting dust, this one can accomplish something.

“I’ve got concerns that this government has developed many action plans that really haven’t led to much action.”

The 32-page plan is full of short- and long-term goals.

Many of the early goals for the first one to three years involve studies, but others go beyond research.

It calls, among other things, for municipal governments and the territory to develop a pilot project for a tiny house community. There are also plans to develop and deliver homeownership courses to increase people’s knowledge and awareness and similar courses for renters and landlords.

The plan calls for a forum for First Nations to plan for developing settlement land for residential use.

Studies on the early to-do list include conducting a needs assessment on the current housing with services stock and what data exists regarding rentals.

According to the report, planning to address housing needs is sometimes hampered by a lack of data and statistics.

“The Yukon’s small population poses challenges to statistically valid data collection, particularly in the communities, and lack of data can impede productive planning for both government and non-government organizations,” the report states.

In 2013, prior to a massive housing plan that was later cancelled, the government commissioned a “Comprehensive Review and Assessment of Housing Issues in Yukon.”

It concludes that almost one in six households in Whitehorse are experiencing affordability problems, meaning they are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.

The same report found that for the communities, issues around housing include limited availability of serviced land and a mismatch between the cost to build and the market value of the homes once they get to the market.

The action plan also calls for more options to help people with disabilities and seniors who want to continue living at home, and for the development of a strategy to address homelessness.

When it comes to affordable social housing and market rentals, the plan calls for an analysis of existing data and subsequent recommendations to address the gaps. It also calls for a cost-benefit analysis for renovating older government housing stock or building something new.

The plan also calls for identifying legal and regulatory barriers to land development, and reviewing current homeownership incentives.

White agrees that data collection is important but concrete steps need to be taken too, she said.

“If it’s two years of data collection and we don’t see any real action at that point then that’s two more years of people who are kind of on that brink being left out on their own.”

The implementation committee is supposed to update the public regularly.

Hine says she expects there will be annual housing symposiums so the group can report back on its progress.

The entire plan can be found online at housingactionplan.ca

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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