Yukon, federal governments announce new money for housing

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Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and Pauline Frost, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, announce new money for housing, on Thursday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
Yukon is getting an infusion of money from the federal government to help alleviate the territory’s shortage of affordable housing.

And the territory is also committing millions of its own.

In a joint announcement on Thursday, the governments called the money a “significant step” towards building, renewing and expanding housing.

“We have huge opportunities now to pave a way forward, looking at healthy communities, together,” said Pauline Frost, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.

The federal and territorial governments are providing nearly $60 million in what they say is new money to be allocated over the next ten years.

It includes almost $18 million from Ottawa, which the territory is matching.

The remaining $24 million was committed last year as part of Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

In addition, Yukon is getting $40 million from its share of the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, a $13.2 billion initiative that offers grants and low-interest housing loans.

That program was launched last year.

Bagnell said an action plan for spending the money will be developed ‘in the coming months.’ (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell says it’s too early to say exactly how the money will be spent.

“In the coming months, an action plan will be developed that is transparent with specific measures to track progress,” Bagnell said.

New housing project in city of Whitehorse

Hours after Thursday morning’s announcement, Yukon unveiled plans for a new $18-million housing project in downtown Whitehorse that Frost calls her government’s “most significant investment in housing since taking office.”

Frost says the development will provide up to 48 housing units, depending on the design. Construction is expected to begin in 2020.

But in the Yukon legislature, critics immediately challenged Frost, saying housing is a growing issue outside the capital too.

Critics have accused the government of putting too much focus on housing needs in Whitehorse, instead of Yukon’s smaller communities. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

“She has forgotten that there is also a growing demand in the rest of the territory besides Whitehorse. The waitlist for social and senior housing was 105 people in 2016. It has now risen to 270,” said Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber.

“It’s good that she seems to finally be taking this issue seriously, but I would like to know what analysis she did to suggest that this was the most effective way to spend $18 million in addressing housing — in Whitehorse.”

Rural housing is a theme Frost herself alluded to in her earlier news conference, in which she described her upbringing in Old Crow.

“I grew up in a community where we didn’t have housing,” she said. “In fact, some families lived in tent frames, and that is how children were raised.”

And while Frost praised the federal government as a “partner” in addressing Yukon’s housing needs, she also called for a national housing action plan focused on Indigenous Canadians.

“We also must acknowledge that First Nations have significant housing needs that we have neglected for generations,” she said.

“We must work collaboratively at the development of an Indigenous housing strategy that supports Yukon First Nations and honours the self-government and modern-day treaty relationships with Canada.”

With files from Philippe Morin

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Access to affordable housing a challenge in Northern Canadian cities, CBC News

Finland: Report highlights Finland’s top 5 housing problems, YLE News

Russia: Abandoned Russian airbase to become wealthy residential neighborhood, Photo report by The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Small town hopes to reverse depopulation trend affecting rural and Northern Sweden, Radio Sweden

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