Yukon gov’t announces eight affordable housing projects

Ranj Pillai, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, announced eight affordable housing projects Wednesday. The projects fall under the Housing Initiatives Fund. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)
Money is on the table for eight affordable housing projects across Yukon, according to Yukon government officials.

The projects, which are slated to be built in areas such as Whitehorse, Teslin and Dawson City, shake out to 102 units, said Ranj Pillai, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.

Falling under the Housing Initiatives Fund, the units build on work to support those struggling to find housing or make rent, he said, noting proposals paid particular attention to the needs of seniors and those grappling with homelessness, among other things.

“Every Yukoner deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” Pillai said. “We recognize that stable, affordable housing is foundational to the health and well-being for all Yukoners.”

Pillai said the units will be kept at below median market rent for 20 years.

Asked by reporters how the government will do this, he said it’s a contractual obligation.

There is $3.6 million budgeted this year for the eight shortlisted housing projects. Money is also earmarked for four housing design concepts — projects that aren’t at the construction phase yet.

Unanswered questions, an announcement that falls short: opposition parties

The government’s announcement boils down to lip service, said NDP House Leader Emily Tredger.

“We hear a long list of accomplishments about all the ways housing is getting better, but that’s not what Yukoners see,” she said. “What we see is lots sitting empty. What Yukoners see is post after post in Facebook groups by families desperate for a place to live.”

Tredger told reporters there are 375 applications on the Yukon government’s housing waitlist. She said this number demonstrates that the 102 proposed units fall short.

“Lot’s of those applications represent multiple people and families,” she said.

“We need action.”

Pillai said the housing initiative has supported 474 units since its launch in 2018. He also said 65 units have been completed since then.

The Yukon Party’s Yvonne Clarke picked up on that figure, asking when the rest of the units will be finished.

Clarke also asked whether increases to building materials such as lumber will affect how many units get built.

Pillai didn’t have any answers. He said he will work with the housing corporation to get them.

According to a news release, in order to offset increased construction costs linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, “shovel ready” projects in Whitehorse received up to $600,000; those located in rural areas received up to $900,000.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canada’s PM says COVID-19 pandemic amplified housing, connectivity gaps in territories, CBC News

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

Norway: Population declining in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Abandoned properties a challenge for rural Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Budget cuts threaten transitional housing program in Alaska’s largest city, Alaska Public Media

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