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Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai and Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber

Help ease the housing crunch, government urged

The Liberal government was pressed to take action on housing affordability Wednesday in the legislative assembly.

By Gabrielle Plonka on October 15, 2020

The Liberal government was pressed to take action on housing affordability Wednesday in the legislative assembly.

“Many Yukoners have seen their dream of home ownership disappear over these last four years,” Geraldine Van Bibber, a Yukon Party MLA, said during question period.

Van Bibber noted that the average price for a single-detached home was $546,800 this past summer, according to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

Ranj Pillai, the minister of Economic Development, told the house that investment in lot development will help boost housing supply.

About 270 lots will become available this year, which will help lower prices, he said.

In an interview with reporters following question period, Pillai said there isn’t a singular solution to the problem.

“It’s going to be a multitude of things, you’re going to have to have lots of supply out and we really need to continue to support First Nation development,” Pillai said.

First Nations are able to register lots on settlement land and lease them, which lowers upfront costs, Pillai explained.

“There’s some real tools in the toolbox that we have in the Yukon,” Pillai said.

Providing a mixed supply of housing options is also pivotal to managing housing prices. 

“We’re going to have to look at different types of units in that continuum,” Pillai said.

“That could be strata title, condominiums, townhouses – where people have an ability to get into the market, build some equity and then move to something else.”

Pillai said he attended the Yukon Contractors Association’s annual meeting on Wednesday. 

“Part of our plan is to be working with the private sector….We’ve been pushing to ensure we have private developers,” Pillai said.

Selling large, surveyed lots to private corporations helps mitigate the risk for the Yukon government, Pillai explained.

“So, now we’re in a position where we’re trying to understand: how do we keep ahead on our lots, how do we work with First Nation governments, and how do we take a holistic approach to this?” Pillai said.

“If you look at it in one segment of a silo, you’re going to get in trouble like we’ve seen over the last couple of years.”

In an interview with reporters, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon called real estate prices in the territory a “real problem,” and pushed for more affordable land availability.

“We’ve seen recently the average price of a house in the territory escalating rapidly; it’s becoming very difficult for people,” Dixon said.

He said housing prices boil down to an issue of supply and demand. He called on the government to work with the City of Whitehorse on making more land available.

“The supply is low because there aren’t lots available,” Dixon said.

“When they do come out, they fly off the shelves in a matter of seconds and you have to win a lottery, essentially, to get a lot in town.”

Dixon said he wants to see plans for land development beyond Whistle Bend.

“We don’t see any planning down the road for what’s next after that, so we need to start to see planning done … to identify new areas where we can get some residential land out.”

Kate White, the leader of the NDP, said housing affordability has been an issue for as long as she’s been in office – nearly a decade.

“We have seen, definitely, movement and growth underneath the current government,” White said.

The Yukon’s steady population growth presents a challenge for ensuring affordability, White said.

A parcel of land is still not affordable for many families on top of the cost of building a house, she added. (Whistle Bend lots ranged from $100,000 to $200,000 apiece last January.)

White agreed with Pillai that there is an opportunity to utilize First Nations land development as a solution.

“I think this is a problem that covers multiple facets, and unfortunately, this is not a new topic for Yukoners.”

Comments (23)

Up 0 Down 0

Wilf Carter on Oct 21, 2020 at 5:46 pm

HAHA I was asked to supply the facts so I did on housing. I have many years involved in housing.

Up 4 Down 1

My Opinion on Oct 21, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Good Lord man, keep your comments to under 10,000 words.

Up 20 Down 1

Salt on Oct 19, 2020 at 10:42 am

The government is responsible and should be held accountable. The two primary factors pushing housing prices higher over the last decade are population increase and restriction of land development. The majority of immigration/migration is due to government policy and bureaucratic bloat. Lack of land development is entirely within their control and reflects internal policy. Where we are today is not a mistake. They have intentionally enriched themselves at the financial and social stability.

Up 19 Down 1

YukonMax on Oct 19, 2020 at 7:35 am

All for the big city isn't it?
I am currently rejecting a contract in a community because there is NO HOUSING!
Not even enough for their own residents.
Far from the eyes!!!!
Who cares.

Up 27 Down 3

Max Mack on Oct 19, 2020 at 1:27 am

Supply is definitely an issue with housing prices.

But, rarely talked about is the obscene standards imposed by the ever-burgeoning, self-congratulating building and safety inspection and enforcement units. These self-proclaimed gods routinely demand that homeowners and contractors maintain standards that are outright illegal or far exceed what is reasonable. CoW and GY inspection agencies, CMHC, YHC and others (including insurance companies) have colluded to hold you and I hostage to their ideologically driven whims.

Politicians of all levels are responsible for the resulting mess by failing to oversee these administrative bodies and their bureaucrats.

Up 24 Down 1

Jim on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:35 am

Government has no control over the cost of building a home, other than to make land affordable. So after gouging for the last decade, it will be pretty hard to roll back. They can not interfere with free enterprise and labour costs, unless people are looking for socialist housing. The government is also not capable of building houses for even double the price. Unless leasing lots from First Nations is locked into longer than 25 years I’m sure banks will be somewhat reluctant to mortgage a house. They also could have avoided a lot of push back if your income tax was not tied to your lot. What exactly is the First Nations going to supply to you in exchange for your tax paid? Just try and sell your house after 15 years on a 25 year lease. Remember if the lease is not renewed, the band gets ownership of the house. I believe with these leased lots on the market, you will see the government move slower on lot development so that these will be the only option.

Up 9 Down 0

TheHammer on Oct 17, 2020 at 10:51 pm

Time to start issuing wall tents.

Up 20 Down 7

to PTT on Oct 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

For the "newsflash" below...

$7000 in 1970 would be LESS than $50,000 today. You show me how I can build a house for less than that... let alone a plot of land.
Get out of here with your "They had it rough in the 70s too" B.S.

Another great statistic for your newsflash... an average salary in 1970s was just under $7000 a year... show me again how I can make the average single detached home price in a year as a regular Joe. I'll wait, but not patiently.

Up 12 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Oct 17, 2020 at 9:55 am

"All the traffic will bear" it's a common enough phrase and is frequently used when somebody decides to sell their home. People are looking to maximize the return on their investment which is not a bad thing. "Buy low & sell high" is the rule most try to follow as seniors sell their homes of many years in preparation to move into assisted living facilities, they want a healthy bank account to last them the rest of their living days and cashing in the investment made in their homes is the ticket. More land at realistic prices is needed and as Mr. Carter has said numerous times in this forum- YG must get out of the land development business for these matters to improve.
Remember: It's not just a roof over your head - It's a great way to make money too.

Up 3 Down 2

JC on Oct 16, 2020 at 6:16 pm

Good idea JayZ, but those 200K will rise to 500K because of supply and demand.

Up 11 Down 2

JC on Oct 16, 2020 at 6:14 pm

Brent: Not only that but food prices as well. Pretty soon, us seniors are going to have to go back to buying dog food while on sale.

Up 2 Down 1

JC on Oct 16, 2020 at 6:12 pm

Martin: Great idea!

Up 26 Down 12

PTT on Oct 16, 2020 at 4:35 pm


Houses were never cheap. NEVER.
My dad built a house in the early 70s and it was $7k and that was a crazy amount of money back then and he did most of the work himself.

If you want to be a homeowner the best time to buy was yesterday, the second best time is today. Prices will not fall and you will build equity over time. Every day you sit in a rental you are just paying off someone else's mortgage, why not pay off your own?

Up 7 Down 19

Wilf Carter on Oct 16, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Yukoners we are getting very dangerous with our federal government on housing.
Mr. Bagnell will you please tell Yukoners the supposed tender your federal government just put out is not a tender notice called by federal government for the supply of quarantine and isolation camps across Canada? If this is true you want to take people out of their homes if they are sick without their approval. But you will not give Yukon $260 million to develop more lots in Whitehorse which housing is in a dangerous shortage since 2017.
Yukoners if this not true then it is nothing to think about. But if it is true folks it going to be a bad outcome. I did believe this when some brought this idea forward. But now it seems Trudeau and liberals might do anything they want to Canadians. Can you imagine seniors going into a camp with other people?

Up 3 Down 14

Wilf Carter on Oct 16, 2020 at 2:12 pm

Folks It looks like Trudeau is starting to sell off Federal government land and other properties.

Up 37 Down 9

HA on Oct 16, 2020 at 9:58 am

Lots of words over the last five years. No action. In fact, housing prices keep getting worse. The government has failed us.

Up 9 Down 18

Wilf Carter on Oct 16, 2020 at 8:46 am

Affordable housing in market conditions means the amount of houses on the market meets the demand that is in the market place/Whitehorse.
Right now that demand for up words of 1800 to 2000 residential living spaces in Whitehorse based reason data put out by Yukon on population in our city.
There are homes in our city with five families living in them because they can afford to buy a home.
What drives up price of home is an under supply of developed land, trades people to build the homes and cost effective supply of material to go into building new houses, all are not in place now and government should dealt with this four years ago but choice not to.
So if the supply side = demand the price of houses in Whitehorse average price would be at tops $320,000 per three bedroom house.
We have an over inflated market on price of housing in Whitehorse and if we go into a recession there will be a lot foreclosure on houses because people will not be able to afford their houses and the high payments
Incomes are very high in governments and interest rates are low which is the only thing keeping the housing market going today.
The minister states 270 lots will lower the prices this year when the demand is close to 2000 will do nothing in the market place.
When we have a shortage of trades to build them how do they get build?
Minister states that First Nations can lease land for housing to lower up front cost which is not true because developed lots on first nations lands in Yukon.
The problem with cost of serviced lots is government is the only developer in the business and are trying to get maximin amount of money out of land development.
The government inflating lot prices driving up housing cost by a lot by 20% or more. lets take 20% off of $546,000 that = $436,000 That means home owners would have to pay $110,000 less plus interest off $140,000 less on a new home.
Show Yukoners your tool box minister so we can see what in it to solve the housing crises in Whitehorse. That is an interesting statement to make given their is not housing tool box to be seen.
Interest word holistic approach means First Nations government are going to solve the housing crises in Whitehorse. How, where and when?
Currie Dixon has it right affordable land development is the first step in develop an affordable housing market in Whitehorse. He is also right on his comments about available land at a reasonable price.
Second is having trades to build the houses and proper supply chain for material control cost of materials.
If we start today it wWith all do respect the minister of economic development does not understand demand and supply side economies or he would gave clean picture of the housing situation in the City of Whitehorse at present time.
ill take seven years just bring the housing market to bring the supply side and demand to = point.
Residents we have a major development problem Whitehouse land mass is not easy to develop land and the city has to expand up towards the Mayo road for future development.
The mayor wants go across the river and build another bridge close to long lake but the economies off that does make any development sense.
Bridge in cold climate are very costly to build and maintain. Just look at Riverdale bridge the top is already needs to be redone again because it is coming apart.
Besides putting more housing on the other side of the river would just make a major bottle neck for transportation and traffic flows especially in down town core.
We have to face the facts Whitehorse is not easy to expand given the type of land we have in it for development.
So, lets do some simple math:
2,000 lots needed now.
lots 40 by 130 feet = 5200 square feet per lot.
5200 SQ per lot size by 2000 lots = 10,400,000 SQ feet of land needed to develop 2,000 lots which is needed now in our city.
This does not include roads or parks.
The minister does not have an understanding of the real housing crises in Whitehorse.
Employees in this mines will be fight in and fight out as is taking place now. We are losing most of the economic benefits minister of economic development
If Victoria Gold open a mine and employ 300 people. How many Yukon are trained to work that mines. Maybe 15% at tops like labor, camp worker and cooks
15% of 300 = 45 local jobs. That leaves 265 demand for new houses creating even more of housing crises
Along with growth comes problem with all our support infrastructure like schools, roads, hospital, doctors, police, fire protection, etc.
I spend two weeks going through Whitehorse economic, sustainable, strategic plan and capital plans and there are no real forecast for housing development
White resident do you want Whitehorse turn into another Fort Mac in Alberta where is was not a nice town to live in at all?

Up 35 Down 6

Jay Z on Oct 15, 2020 at 8:56 pm

One of the reasons homes are expensive has to do with the city’s inability to promote mobile and modular homes. They run in the low to high 200s and are very well built, but for some reason the city places ridiculous bylaws that inhibit the landing of these affordable homes.

Up 33 Down 30

Yukoner75 on Oct 15, 2020 at 8:48 pm

It's hard to take criticism from the Yukon Party seriously on this issue. They sat on piles of money that was meant for affordable housing from the feds for about 7-8 years. Then Brad Cathers plowed all of that money into the Sally Ann mansion downtown instead, because all his realtor buddies didn't want housing prices to fall. I could name off about 10 realtors who are in bed with the Yukon Party but won't for privacy reasons.

Anyway, at the end of the day, the Yukon Party over their last term spent about 24 million on lot development while the current Liberal government spent 25 million just this year alone. Seems pretty obvious which party takes this matter seriously.

Up 22 Down 8

Matthew on Oct 15, 2020 at 6:59 pm

I've got an idea I'm sure would garnish several thousand signatures! Spend the proposed money on the future city hall and disperse that $20+M and create several affordable / rentals units buildings around town. Sickening the house prices here.. inflated gov dominated housing market.

Up 27 Down 6

Brent on Oct 15, 2020 at 6:57 pm

Would someone who can get through to Curry please inform him that building materials have doubled in the last nine months due to Covid19. Is he aware of this factor?

Up 22 Down 9

martin on Oct 15, 2020 at 6:10 pm

YG: Build a subdivision just outside City Limits and you'll get reasonably priced lots. Carcross Cut-off is one coming to mind. Young families can grow there. Bus shuttle for people wanting to come downtown should do the trick.

Up 31 Down 4

JC on Oct 15, 2020 at 5:31 pm

Lease a lot off the FN will bring the prices down? Good luck with that.

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