Yukon Housing gives seniors a lift

Yukon Housing is no longer locking out wealthy seniors. Until this week, seniors with more than $100,000 in assets were not eligible for the corporation’s social housing units.

Yukon Housing is no longer locking out wealthy seniors.

Until this week, seniors with more than $100,000 in assets were not eligible for the corporation’s social housing units.

“And this was an impediment to seniors,” said Yukon Housing Minister Jim Kenyon on Monday.

In the communities, seniors might be sitting on houses they can’t sell, he said.

Owning a house would push their assets over the $100,000 mark, and would have made them ineligible for senior’s units, even if they had mobility issues and were in need of this type of accommodation.

Now, assets will no longer get in the way, he said.

However, seniors’ assets will still be considered when prioritizing applicants on Yukon Housing’s lengthy waitlist.

Changes are also being made to seniors’ rental rates.

Seniors in social housing are paying variable rent, based on 25 per cent of their annual income.

That ties for the lowest in Canada, said Kenyon.

But still, some seniors are paying too much.

There are some seniors paying more than average rental rates in their communities, he said.

To even things out, a maximum cap is being introduced.

The cap will be based on two median rental rates: one for Whitehorse and one for the communities.

Work is still being done to determine the median rental rates.

Kenyon could not say when the new rates would come into play.

But rents will be adjusted retroactively to April 1, 2011.

Yukon Housing is building 56 seniors’ units in Faro, Teslin, Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

The Faro and Watson Lake units are now open for applicants, he said.

Seniors were identified as being in the greatest need for housing in the territory, said Kenyon.

But they don’t even make up half of Yukon Housing’s waitlist.

There are currently 50 seniors on the waitlist and 80 non-seniors.

The next greatest need is single parents, he said.

And of those, 25 per cent are men, said Kenyon.

At the end of February, the Roadhouse Inn is closing leaving more than 30 people homeless.

The residents include a one-month-old baby, her parents and a woman struggling with HIV, but the majority are single men.

“The next group we’re going to look at is single men,” said Kenyon.

Yukon Housing is currently sitting on more than 30 empty rooms at the former athlete’s village.

The rooms are being used for storage, according to the housing corp.

And the windows are not up to code, said Kenyon.

Before considering bringing the rooms up to code – to help alleviate its lengthy waitlist – Yukon housing needs to look at other options, he said.

Those “other options” might include using Yukon Housing’s former seniors’ units at 207 Alexander Street, he said.

“And Yukon Housing is looking at other buildings,” added Kenyon.

But he didn’t want to give too much away, “because then the price goes up,” he said.

Yukon Housing is also working on 14 centralized units for clients struggling with FASD.

“Centralizing them will result in cost savings,” said Kenyon.

And it will help reduce the waitlist, he said.

As well, Yukon Housing is considering looking at the Northern City Supportive Housing Coalition’s plan to build a 20-room supported apartment complex in downtown Whitehorse that will feature around-the-clock staff and access to counselling, addictions services and life skills.

Right now, Health and Social Services is looking at this, said Kenyon.

“This is a social issue,” he said.

And Yukon Housing doesn’t have the mandate, the money, or the staff to start dealing with social issues, he said.

“We just build housing.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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