The Yukon government will be using the last of its Northern Housing Trust funds for four new programs in the territory.
It announced today that the remaining $6.3 million – of an initial $50 million provided by the federal government for affordable housing in 2006 – will be spent on increasing municipalities’ rental supply, rental subsidies for families, grants to improve homes’ accessibility and grants for upgrades to rental units.
A fifth new program will also be funded with $1 million from the government’s Investment in Affordable Housing agreement with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
It will see the Yukon Housing Corp. pay rent to the landlord, while the tenant pays the corporation 25 per cent of his or her income.
“These new initiatives will improve the overall quality and accessibility of rental housing in Yukon, while at the same time putting Yukoners to work,” Stacey Hassard, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corp., said in statement.
“They address issues that face both rental developers and low- to moderate-income renters seeking accommodations in Yukon’s private rental market.
This will also provide an opportunity for potential landlords to upgrade illegal suites to approved legal suites, increasing availability to Yukon renters.”
The details of the new projects are:
• Municipal Matching Rental Construction Program ($1 million for 2015-16 projects, $2.5 million for 2016-17) – The government will partner with municipalities to offer one-time capital grant incentives for projects to help increase the supply of rental housing.
• Rental Quality Enhancement Grants ($400,000 for 2015-16, $400,000 for 2016-17) – Grants will be offered to landlords with existing approved rental units, or homeowners who want to create an approved secondary suite.
• Accessibility Enhancement Grants ($400,000 for 2015-16, $400,000 for 2016-17) – This program offers grants to homeowners and landlords for improving the accessibility of homes and rental units for people with physical disabilities.
• Rental Housing Allowances for Families ($1 million from 2015-19) – The rental subsidy program aims to help families with children better afford private market rental housing by offering direct rental housing allowances.
It will be targeted to families in core housing need (who spend more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs) and will be income-tested.
• Rent Supplement Enhancement ($1 million from 2015-19) – This program is for social housing-eligible clients and matches tenants with participating landlords.
The program currently exists in Whitehorse and this funding will extend it to all Yukon communities.
The Yukon Housing Corp. pays the median market rent directly to the landlord, and the tenant pays the corporation 25 per cent of their income.
NDP Housing critic Kate White said this morning the projects were “positive,” but doubted whether they address the need for affordable housing in the territory.
She criticized the Yukon Party government for taking nine years – since the funds were received in 2006 – to spend it.
“I think the fact that they held onto this money without any real direction or reason, especially when we went through the biggest crunch we had, was disgraceful.”
“I would even venture a guess that for many people, it still feels like it’s at a crisis point,” she said of current affordable housing needs.
White said she suspects the new unit quality enhancement grants for landlords and owners are preparation for the new Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, expected to come into effect this year.
“My main criticism of the fact that they’re using the Northern Housing Trust money here is that since they were elected in 2011, they talked about all the innovative ways they were going to make affordable housing available in the Yukon, starting with Lot 262, ending with last year’s fiasco of the 75 essentially subsidized units within the city of Whitehorse,” White said.
In 2012, the government put to tender Lot 262, a 4.2-hectare parcel of land at Mountainview Drive and Range Road, and included a requirement that the successful bidder build at least 30 affordable rental units.
Only two bids came in, and neither met the minimum requirements.
Last year, the government pulled the plug on a plan to fund three affordable housing projects in Whitehorse, after developers say they spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on their proposals.
The territorial government received the Northern Housing Trust funds from Ottawa in 2006 for affordable housing.
After negotiations, $32.5 million was distributed to Yukon First Nations.
With its $17.5 million, the government has dedicated:
• $1.4 million to affordable housing in Carcross and Carmacks;
• $3 million to the Whitehorse Salvation Army shelter revamp;
• $4.5 million to Betty’s Haven, a second-stage housing complex in Whitehorse;
• $1.4 million to an energy incentive program for homeowners;
• $300,000 to Habitat for Humanity Yukon;
• $480,000 over two years for implementation of a Housing Action Plan; and
• $250,000 for a downtown planning process at Rogers Street and Fifth Avenue.
(The two latter projects are included in the 2015-16 budget.)
The five new programs are in development now and are expected to be application-ready by June, the government said in its news release.