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Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor,

Dear Editor,

I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition today (YAPC) and heard talks about the NDP’s promises about this. And while I agree that there are severe housing issues in the Yukon, and Whitehorse specifically, there are issues with a rent increase cap. Yes it sounds great on paper, as the idea that landlords cannot raise rents at will to whatever price they want always is great for a sound bite. But here’s the flaws with that and something I never see brought up when discussing a rent caps. Lets use two per cent for a nice round number.

If a landlord is capped at what they can increase their rent every year, it’s almost a guarantee that the rent will get raised every year, because if they don’t raise it yearly they lose that raise potential forever as long as the tenant stays. For example my friend’s rent went up for the first time in 2.5 years this winter. It went up $100 a month ($2,000 to $2,100). Had this policy been in place, odds are really good that they would have ended up paying more as the landlord likely would have raised their rent every year the moment their initial lease expired. At two per cent that would have cost them $480 more the first year ($2,040 a month), almost $490 more the second year ($2,080.80 a month) and then $734 more for the six months in the third year ($2,122.41). By the time the landlord actually raised their rent 30 months after their lease expired, they would have paid $1,704 more in rent over the last 30 months than what they actually paid. And the end result, in addition to having paid $1,700 more over the previous 30 months, would still have them paying more monthly then what the landlord ultimately raised their rent to: $2,100 vs. $2,122.41 a month. And that’s just at two per cent. Landlords wouldn’t have much of a choice, because if they didn’t increase the rent yearly, that’s lost revenue that they can never get back as long as that tenant is living there.

In addition to issues with the yearly increases, landlords will have to start being significantly stricter in what they charge initially. A friend of mine who owns a unit doesn’t charge “market rate” for their three bedroom rental. They charge a price that they feel comfortable charging, which ultimately is probably a couple hundred less than what the market rate is. However the second that the government gets involved in dictating what they can charge or what they can increase the rent by, you can guarantee that what they charge initially isn’t going to be the price that they’re currently charging. They’d have to charge more just to make up for the fact that they can’t set their own price and are being regulated by the government. They flat out told me that if this policy was in place, that their new tenant who just moved in would be paying at least $150 to $200 more a month just because the government has decided to dictate what they can and cannot charge in the future and they would need to be sure that they’ve set the price very close to market rate initially because they can’t easily make on the fly adjustments due to government oversight.

Then there’s the question about upkeep and upgrades. While landlords are legally required to keep a unit to a certain standard, if they’re being capped on what they can charge and increase their rent, good luck getting them to do more than the absolute bare minimum in regards to maintenance and upkeep. Policies like this are great when you want more slum shacks.

The other aspect to this that people overlook or outright ignore is it completely removes any incentive for the landlord to work with a tenant to keep them housed. The moment that the tenant does anything that the landlord can evict them for, financially it’s in the landlord’s best interest to boot them out if what they’re charging is not near the market rate and less than what they could get with the allowed rent increases. For example, if the landlord is charging $1,500 for a place that they could otherwise be charging $180, finding any excuse possible to evict a tenant is in their best financial interest as they can always raise the rent for the next tenant. Whereas if a landlord can adjust the rent to their property as they see fit, there’s no incentive to evict tenants for whatever reason they can justify just to raise their rent. While a tenant may choose to move if the rent is increased beyond something they’re comfortable with, at the bare minimum they’re not getting booted out with 30 days notice.

In short, at a time when housing is severely strained, the last thing we should be doing is putting policies in place that we know will lead to more people being evicted and rents guaranteed to being raised on a yearly basis. Yes tenants will have security knowing that in 12 months the rent can “only” go up by a set amount… but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be better off from this process, because it’s a guarantee that the rent is almost certain to go up by that amount… every single year. And while some might feel good knowing that they won’t face a big jump in their rent… that doesn’t mean that they’ll be saving any money.

Jordan Rivest

Whitehorse YT

Yukon Education’s Downfall

No matter your political background, I think we can all agree that emotionally strong and healthy youth are a cornerstone in any community. As a Grade 12 student at F.H. Collins, I am increasingly concerned about how our new government will consider youth in their decision-making. Youth (especially those under 18) are often shelved, rarely making the priority list for any government. To prove this point to you, I will highlight how the Yukon government has continually failed youth in our education system.

The 2019 audit on our school system by the Auditor General of Canada, revealed systematic failings within the Department of Education in Yukon. One of the main findings was that the Department of Education was not properly conducting inclusive education. First Nation youth had significantly lower educational outcomes than non-First Nation youth. The last residential school in Yukon was abolished in 1969 (the Choutla residential school), however, the legacy of these schools has continued in Yukon, straining the relationships between Indigenous citizens and the Department of Education. In fact, the residential school system was barely (if at all) mentioned through the whole of my education in Yukon; indicating the government is still trying to ignore its dirty past.

Yukon has incredibly poor high school graduation rates (70 per cent). Marginalized students, including: LGBTQ+, immigrant and BIPOC youth struggle academically, socially and emotionally in school. The feelings of these youth are triggered by being forced into a foreign environment without any familiar support, and many of these youth do not end up graduating. The Department of Education needs to prioritize inclusive education.

Our education system is also failing to expose youth to a wide range of career options. The education system chooses ‘important’ academic subjects like math and sciences to be taught by their experienced teachers, while neglecting the arts, music, drama, trades, and business. Education is the pathway to a career that will dictate and lead not only your life, but also lead the future of our communities. Biases in certain fields of education, particular academic disciplines, have become a pattern for today’s society. A great example is how schools fail to promote careers in trades. Trade education is done in an ad-hoc way and seems to be portrayed as a pathway for individuals who have failed in their academics. This stigma is there for all genders but there is especially a backlash on women and LGBTQ+ youth going into trades. This causes a lack of opportunities for women or LGBTQ+ who are interested in trades.

Education is one of the highest returns on investment a government can make and it helps us define our values and amount to our highest community potential. Education needs to be more than just math, science and English; education needs to include mentorship, culture, art, music and inclusive career exposure.

So, when you go to the voting polls this upcoming Monday, as a Yukon youth, I am asking you to consider how the government will not just improve the education system, but how the government will consider youth in any decision making they do. A prosperous and productive Yukon depends on our youth, so please vote for them.

Samreen Ahmed – a Yukon youth