Houses are under construction on Skookum Drive in Whistle Bend in this 2016 file photo. The federal government says some of the new housing money coming the Yukon’s way over the next 10 years won’t require matching by the territorial government. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Yukon signs on to national housing plans

YG mum on exactly how much money territory will get, or what its goals are

The federal government says some of the new housing money coming the Yukon’s way over the next 10 years won’t require matching by the territorial government.

Earlier this week all of Canada’s jurisdictions with the exception of Quebec endorsed a new housing partnership framework with Ottawa. The Yukon was represented by Pauline Frost, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.

The federal government is promising to spend billions on social and affordable housing across the country over the next decade.

Details of exactly how much money the Yukon will be getting from four different pots of cash hasn’t been decided yet. Each jurisdiction will have to sign its own bilateral agreement with the federal government.

In the legislative assembly April 10 Frost promised that the agreement with Ottawa would be signed “very quickly.”

Frost said the Yukon had “secured, in our base, $24 million for the next 10 years — base funding that doesn’t have strings attached to it.”

In an email, cabinet spokesperson Sunny Patch said that money “is part of the $300 million allocation of Northern funding announced in the 2017/18 federal budget.” The rest of Yukon’s portion of that fund is still to be determined, she said.

Most of the federal money requires that the jurisdictions contribute a portion, but the $300 million being set aside for “targeted Northern funding” does not have a matching requirement.

“Northern funding is targeted funding to Canada’s three territories to address the distinct housing needs in the North,” Audrey-Anne Coulombe, a spokesperson for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said in an email.

“Like all NHS (national housing strategy) investments delivered with provinces and territories, these funds must align with federal principles and other funding requirements, such as reporting.”

Coulombe didn’t say why Ottawa chose not to require matching for this money.

Three other pots of cash are also being rolled out nationally. The governments are promising to spend a separate $1.1 billion in “priority funding” for the provinces and territories, $4.3 billion for a Canada Community Housing Initiative and $2 billion for a Canada Housing Benefit.

In the case of the priority funding and housing initiative up to half of the money is to come from provincial or territorial or municipal governments, according to Ottawa. Matching can also come from Indigenous governments, the private sector, charities or individual donors.

Ottawa says the money is to be spent on new construction or conversion of residential units or repairs and renovation of existing stock, or to improve housing affordability.

In the legislative assembly Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber asked what the government hopes to get out of the money.

“The communiqué that the minister signed also states that Yukon, in a bilateral agreement with the federal government, will develop mutually agreed-upon targets for increasing the supply of social housing. What are the Yukon’s targets?”

Frost replied that “the targets have been defined with our partners,” but didn’t offer specifics.

“We have a homelessness strategy that good Yukoners and our NGO groups and our partners in the community have drafted and participated in. We will continue to review and analyze that and identify key priorities. We have the housing action plan. The housing action plan defines processes. We’re now pleased to look at implementing aspects of that plan. We have resources set aside in this budget.”

Patch said the deal with Ottawa allows for territorial programs that started as early as April 1 to qualify as cost-matching.

“We anticipate that the Yukon government’s new investment of $2 million for the developer build loan and $3.6 million for social and affordable housing can be used for cost-matching,” she said in an email.

Last week the Yukon government said it was spending $2 million over three years for short-term construction financing through the developer build program to “help contractors provide modest, sustainable housing options in Yukon communities.”

Applications for the loan will be accepted starting on May 1.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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