Efforts to fight the city’s modest infill proposals are a classic case of NIMBY syndrome. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Whitehorse’s NIMBY boo birds are back

Pushback against the city’s infill proposal smacks of selfishness

Whitehorse is not Toronto. On that, at least, I think we can all agree and be grateful.

We are, as the signs say, the “wilderness city.” We boast this status because of our unparalleled access to nature and all the incredible things that entails, like stunning mountain views in every direction and the remote, though very real, possibility you could be mauled by a bear while jogging.

But Whitehorse is not immune to the same sort of planning and development issues that plague its larger southern counterparts.

Demand for housing here outstrips supply, pushing up prices and rents. According to housing data released this week by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the city’s rental vacancy rate is down to three per cent, the average home sale price increased from $361,000 last year to $380,000 this year, and delays in Whistle Bend mean the number of new housing starts could actually drop over the coming years.

And yet, it seems, the most powerful force in municipal politics, here as in Toronto, is the existing property owner who thinks they get to veto what happens on land they don’t own.

Such it is with the backers of a petition on change.org — where there are currently 51 petitions related to the Transformers movie franchise — outraged that the city would dare even consider opening up some parcels of land in existing country residential neighbourhoods. Land that — it’s worth noting — while not currently zoned for construction is located in areas designated for development by the city’s official community plan.

These NIMBY arguments begin to crumble at the slightest scrutiny. If building in green space is such a threat to groundwater, then surely that is also true of the existing homes. Why did we allow those in the first place?

The neighbourhood is car-reliant, the petition claims, and so new residents would only serve to increase greenhouse gas emissions. If current residents find that so objectionable, perhaps they should move somewhere that is serviced by public transit.

The petition also gives away the perpetual, not-so-secret motivation of all NIMBYs everywhere: “the proposed development can negatively impact privacy, scenic views, and” — last but certainly not least — “property values.”

Nice try, but the city is actually under no obligation to protect your property values. Even your dream home contains an element of economic risk. The self-interest of property owners does not outweigh the broader obligation of municipal government to ensure there is an adequate housing supply.

And besides, have you seen what property values are doing lately? Infill does not torpedo property values. It does the opposite.

Whitehorse is in the midst of a housing crunch that only figures to get worse if any of several proposed mines go into production. The city will need housing of all types to meet both future and current demand. The bulk of that housing will be built, by necessity, closer to the city centre, but it also means filling spaces in country residential lots.

The nationwide housing bubble has gotten so bad in supercharged markets like Toronto and Vancouver that a recent Canadian Business article described a new movement: people who are actively rooting for a market crash so that they might one day be able to afford a home.

Said one housing advocate: “We have a housing shortage, and a large group of people who don’t want more housing — often people who already have secure housing, and who get richer if there is a shortage. There’s a class of landowners that passively grow wealthy, and another class that’s struggling to pay rent.”

That right there is the crux of it: NIMBYism is, at its core, a classic case of “I got mine.” My piece of paradise, in a neighbourhood so far-flung you have to drive to get the mail. Country residential neighbourhoods are not wilderness. They are where wilderness used to be. It’s irresponsible for the city not to infill in these places. Doing so helps protect the farther flung, genuine wilderness areas inside limits from development pressure.

If the city was proposing to build a dump or a 40-story office block in its outer suburbs, the petition signatories might have a defensible point. But the city is not, so they don’t.

Contact Chris Windeyer at editor@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Yukoners turn out in droves for Skagway Marathon

More than half the 162-person field at the Alaska race calls the Yukon home

NGC withdraws lane closure application

Shorter period closures may be required

Support coordinator filling in ‘gaps’ in services for Yukon sexual assault victims

Reem Girgrah was hired as victim support coordinator for the Yukon’s SART in April

Cook Street property owners will face LIC

Road work is planned for 2020

Whitehorse fire chief fired

Mike Dine, who was hired in June 2018, was fired by the city on June 14.

Whitehorse fish ladder open for the season

Manager Brittany Key said there are low expectations for chinook salmon numbers

Strong results for Yukoners at B.C. triathlons

Athletes competed at the Subaru Ironman 70.3 Victoria and the Oliver Half Iron and Aquabike

Yukon woman found guilty of selling crack to undercover officer in 2017

Diana Johns’ lawyer says he’s planning on launching an entrapment application

Give Hope Wings fundraiser launches Saturday from Pitt Meadows

Flying marathon will benefit low income Canadians needing flights for medical treatment

Driving with Jens: Keeping pets safe in your vehicle

In my last column I discussed ways to avoid the tragedy which… Continue reading

Yukonomist: Whitehorse Troughbillies

Yukon could take its hot rocks to the bank

ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge spurs mountain bike races in Whitehorse

“I have to remind myself to do that sometimes – just slow down and look around.”

Whitehorse FC Premier U15 boys finish fourth despite injuries and short bench at Slurpee Cup

“They worked super hard and were more hungry for the win than the other team”

Most Read