Lack of housing in Dawson City, Yukon putting some long-term residents in a tough spot

Lydia Soulliere and her partner Ross Cockburn’s rental lease is up in July. Right now they are having a difficult time securing another place to live. They’re afraid if they can’t find something they’ll have to move away. (Submitted by Lydia Soulliere)

People who live in Dawson City, Yukon say it’s the best place to live.

Residents are friendly. Business opportunities are endless. And the landscape is top-notch.

That’s what drew Lydia Soulliere to the North seven years ago.

Since moving to Dawson, she met her love Ross Cockburn, and the two have started numerous businesses. One of those is the former, and very popular Annabelle’s Noodle House, which offered an alternative option to pizza and pub food in town.

But now, she and her partner are in a tough spot.

Soulliere said her rental lease is up in July because the family they were renting from is coming back. As of right now, it looks like there isn’t much available for housing in Dawson.

“We definitely need to find something by then,” said Soulliere. 

Adding to the pressure on the couple to find another place to live is the fact that Soulliere is starting a new job next month.

“Luckily we do have a trailer so we’re able to stay in there as long as it’s warm enough. So probably July and August and part of September.”

But any time past September is a different story, according to Soulliere.

“We either have to buy a house we don’t particularly want,” she said. ” [Or] If we can’t find anything then we’ll definitely have to move which is really unfortunate.”

‘Very competitive to find housing’

Soulliere said the seasonal influx of people coming to Dawson City makes it extremely hard to find and secure housing.

“It’s very competitive to find housing,” she said. “It’s frustrating to see people from out of town post, looking for housing. There’s so many names right now looking for housing.”

Soulliere appreciates the need for seasonal workers and what they contribute to the local economy. She said more needs to be done to accommodate them, but also the longtime local contributors as well.

“The city needs to do a better job at releasing some plots of land,” she said. “Letting developments happen. You know, less red tape. More housing to be put up.”

Despite the stress of looking for another place to live, Soulliere said she loves Dawson and isn’t prepared to move away just yet. She’s willing to do what it takes to stay in the community.

“The housing market is so expensive,” she said. “Spending half a million dollars on a place in Dawson is something I never thought I would do but that’s kind of looking like what’s going to happen.”

“It’s definitely scary but it is what it is. Our hands are tied.” 

Residential lots coming

Mayor Bill Kendrick said the situation for Soulliere is “terrible.”

Kendrick said he doesn’t want to see longtime residents, and friends of the community leave town because they cannot find a place to live, especially after living there for so long.

“It’s sad that we don’t have even a minimal amount of housing available, or building lots available in the Dawson municipality or close by,” he said.

Kendrick said bringing more housing in town can’t be done without help from the Yukon government, and the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation. 

He said there are a few residential development projects underway but it’s taken much longer than, in his opinion, it should have. 

“We understand the [Dredge Pond] residential subdivision will be moving to the [Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board] screening soon,” he said.

Once completed the subdivision will have 30 country residential lots available to the public just outside of the downtown core.

“There are multiple levels of government in Dawson City,” he said. “They are wishing for consultation prior to new areas being developed so there’s quite a bit of a lag when it comes to these new housing opportunities opening up.”

Dawson City Mayor Bill Kendrick says more housing needs to be available in town to accommodate seasonal workers, but also long-term residents who contribute to the community year-round. (Sarah Xenos/CBC)

Kendrick said there are a few other areas around Dawson that are being considered for development.

But unfortunately for Soulliere’s case, none of the projects will be completed within the timeline she is working against.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Kendrick said.

“I do think governments need to start burning the candle at both ends. In the time that I’ve been on council fifteen plus years, Whistlebend in Whitehorse has had about two thousand new lots … In that time we should have gotten a hundred new lots in Dawson City.”

“It’d just be really nice to to not have to tell people next year,” Kendrick said. “Because that’s been the message for a long time. We need it to be this year.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Pre-fab home factory, Indigenous post-secondary: 2024 federal budget highlights for the North, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre is a CBC reporter in Dawson City, Yukon.

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