City of Whitehorse committee reportedly aims to address local housing shortage

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The City of Whitehorse wants to tackle the city’s housing shortage with a proposed new advisory committee.

The idea behind the Housing and Land Use Planning Advisory Committee is to identify barriers and opportunities in housing development, identify market and non-market rental housing gaps, and examine policies and regulations. The committee will then make policy recommendations to City Council.

The committee would sit for two years with a maximum of eight members – four people representing the construction industry, two representing First Nations governments and two from the community at large.

Some councilors suggested that the membership of the committee be expanded to include other people as well.

“I would like to think that we would also want to entertain people who impact housing, or are impacted by land and housing shortages and development challenges,” Coun said. Kirk Cameron.

He suggested including people from financial institutions, economists or people representing groups that help people affected by the housing crisis.

“These people are out there in the rental market itself and that’s a very important part of the puzzle,” he added.

Com. Ted Laking suggested the committee should include people from outside the “government bubble” to look at “bureaucracy” or existing procedures that are holding back development.

Com. Dan Boyd recommended adding the Government of Yukon as a committee member.

However, Mayor Laura Cabott disagreed with expanding the membership of the committee.

“The idea is to look at the specifics of housing shortages, land use planning and what we do here at the City,” she said.

“It’s not about social policy… The intention is to bring in the experts, the builders, the developers… If we keep it tight, we’ll get our recommendations much faster.”

The board will vote next week on a motion to establish the new committee. Whitehorse residents who are interested in volunteering to serve on the committee should apply for membership.

To avoid duplicating work already done by others, such as the Yukon Housing Corporation’s Housing Action Plan 2015-2025 or the non-profit organization Safe at Home, the committee may review and use the work of others, although the intent is to make specific recommendations to Whitehorse City Council.

“The accommodation did not follow the request”

At Monday’s standing committee meeting, Wendy Donnithorne, a city manager, said the supply of homes on the market has not kept up with demand, which means higher prices.

“Residents of Whitehorse are currently experiencing a housing shortage,” Donnithorne said, while presenting the proposal to the committee.

The average price of a single-detached home in Whitehorse is $656,800. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

A 2021 report Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found housing affordability to be a serious challenge in the Yukon, particularly in Whitehorse.

The average price of a single-detached home rose 15.4% between 2020 and 2021 to $656,800, according to the committee’s proposal.

A mobile home costs an average of $405,100, condominiums $456,300 and duplex-style homes $511,500.

Whitehorse tenants are also facing challenges, with the overall vacancy rate dropping from 3.8% in April 2020 to 1.7% a year later.

The cost of rent also increased during this period.

According to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the average rent price for a unit with 3 or more bedrooms increased from $1,612 in April 2020 to $1,793 in April 2021.

The cost of housing is also an issue elsewhere in the territory.

In Dawson, the average price of all rental units rose from $987 in April 2020 to $1,121 a year later and then to $1,206 in October 2021. In Watson Lake, prices jumped by $740 to $909 over the same period.

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