Whitehorse Daily Star

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Kristina Craig

Minister peppered with questions about housing

Minister peppered with questions about housing

By Gabrielle Plonka on October 11, 2019

Pauline Frost, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corp., occupied the hot seat for most of the legislative question period Thursday as opposing parties questioned the corporation’s movement toward more affordable housing.

Issues were taken by the Official opposition and NDP on alleged evictions at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter and funding for the Challenge Disability Resource Group housing project.

The opposition also raised empty units currently in the possession of the territorial government during a rental housing crisis.

“The reality is that this government has not done enough to provide affordable housing options for Yukoners,” said NDP Leader Kate White.

Fellow NDP member Liz Hanson looked to Frost for answers on the rumoured evictions of individuals living in the transitional units at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter. The facility is located in Hanson’s Whitehorse Centre riding.

Hanson asked Frost if the 22 transitional units are currently occupied.

Frost responded that nine of the citizens living in transitional housing were moved to permanent housing. She did not tell the house how many transitional units, if any, are currently occupied.

She said the government’s promised Housing First units, planned as permanent housing for vulnerable people without requiring abstinence from drugs or alcohol, will be fully operational in November.

Hanson told media after question period that there has been a lack of clarity on the current state of housing programming at the shelter.

“We had heard this summer that all of the people in the transition units had been evicted, and we have been unable to substantiate that,” Hanson said. “We were trying to put an opportunity for the minister to explain to us.”

The NDP member conceded the Liberal government inherited a “dreadful” shelter design, making it more difficult to implement positive change.

“I think the issue appeared to be there’s been some flux in how the programming is rolling out.”

Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber put forward a question regarding the lack of funding for the Challenge Disability Resource Group affordable housing project and its planned 53 units on Main Street.

The Star reported last July that the project was moving toward its inception with a tender planned for November and construction to begin in April 2020.

Van Bibber noted Premier Sandy Silver pledged $4 million to the project in his 2019 budget speech last spring. The fall supplementary budget, however, cut the funding.

Frost responded that the budget was adjusted to realign with the Resource Group’s revamped timeline. (See story on supplementary budget.)

“We are in an affordable housing crisis, and if this project isn’t ready to go, the government should be looking at other options,” Van Bibber said.

She asked why the $4 million was not reallocated to other projects for affordable housing.

Silver said his government would not “pivot” between projects without planning, and his government is still committed to completing the project.

Kristina Craig, the executive director of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, told the Star this morning the $4 million probably could have been utilized elsewhere this year. The compressed timeline, however, poses a challenge to the realignment of funding.

“It’s not that … people in the community don’t have ideas about what’s needed, and how to get it,” Craig said. “I think there is an issue around what is shovel-ready.”

Craig pointed out that if replacement projects were not at the ready, the government could not reasonably begin consultations halfway through the fiscal year without also pushing those projects into subsequent years.

For Craig, the question is why there is a lack of projects lined up to take the place of the Resource Group project.

She suggested earlier consultation with the Yukon Housing Corp., First Nations governments and communities could have resulted in initiatives ready to receive funding.

“It is a known fact we do not have enough of the right kind of housing within our spectrum in Whitehorse and across the territory,” Craig said.

“I would hope that because that is undisputed now, that there are opportunities to support it.”

The territorial government has committed to a number of initiatives to implement the housing action plan, Frost told the house Thursday.

She said steps taken by her department have added 400 homes to the Yukon thanks to repair, renovation and development initiatives.

She said partnerships formed with the private sector, other governments and non-government organizations have helped address the crisis.

“I am very proud of that work and we will continue to ensure that we partner with Yukoners to bring the homes and services that they need to their communities,” Frost said.

NDP Leader Kate White questioned the Liberal government’s hold of a vacant housing unit for the last 10 months, as reported by the RUSH (radio station CKRW) in September.

“The fact that this government has livable units sitting unoccupied while Yukoners are homeless or living precariously is unacceptable,” White said.

Frost responded that the government “endeavour(s) not to have any houses sit vacant” and her department is prioritizing housing for seniors and Yukoners with medical needs. Policies are currently being amended to “provide a better balance” for staff and social housing.

She described “significant challenges” to housing in Yukon communities, specifically mentioning a recently closed private facility in Watson Lake, displacing a number of citizens there.

White accused Frost of taking too light an approach on the affordable housing crisis.

“There is a pretty glaring trend with this government,” she said.

“Policy options that have the potential to benefit low-income Yukoners are watered down or outright eliminated while those that benefit high-income Yukoners breeze on through.”

White criticized the government for not adopting a raised minimum wage and providing basic protections for mobile-homeowners.

Craig told the Star the lack of an immediately raised minimum wage is an example of delayed movement on low-income issues by the government.

“(It) is a pretty good example of where the government could take leadership right from the get-go,” she said. “I think the current government is doing better than some previous governments have done in at least recognizing these are issues we need to be grappling with.”

She added Yukoners should not lose sight of movement made on affordability, in spite of criticism.

“I do think strides are being made,” she said.

“I think sometimes we have a tendency to not recognize progress when we actually see it. For some of us who have been at this for a long time, we have seen a shift, and that’s positive.”

Comments (16)

Up 0 Down 0

I don’t believe in millennials on Oct 18, 2019 at 8:52 pm

@ Reality is a good hug - Reality is not that either. Quite simply, reality is a series of conscious and unconscious phenomenon mediated by a series of intervening chemical reactions; endorphins, serotonin, hormones and the like. It is a fact that humans are unable to fully comprehend reality because we cannot take in all of the information from our environments. It is way too vast. So we unconsciously fill in the blanks.

Humans are general-gisters and rationalizers who can only, shallowly so, approximate a self-serving reality. It is an absolutely amazing stupidity that we have engaged this notion of postmodernism as a reductio ad absurdism which we have applied full scale as some corrective attempt to instantiate a new normative egalitarianism only to find out in the fervour of it all that no one is safe in this paradigm of enforced ignorance.

Research? No, it is called reading, listening and thinking about thinking, understanding and reconciling a human nature. These should be the basic ideals of an intellectually healthy society - Those who do not commit themselves to these ideals resign themselves and their peers to the chaotic violence of a never-ending diversity. It’s really quite regressive actually but by the time the collective had sorted that out people of ignorance will hurt others... Hurt them badly... And think nothing of it - A very serious flaw with the Liberalism that Trudeau is flinging around like a bored monkey in a zoo.

Think, think, think said Pooh!

Up 0 Down 1

Reality is a good hug on Oct 18, 2019 at 11:03 am

OK, there might be some obscure attempt to muddy the waters on what a neo con is and you have read it. Have to wonder who is really avoiding reality, considering you have time to research that fact.
The rest of us see neo cons as the far right of the Conservative Party of Canada. I stand by my comment.

Up 5 Down 4

Wilf Carter on Oct 17, 2019 at 12:08 am

Housing takes lots of money to build. Federal LIberals have cut housing funding from $18 million a year to $2.4 million a year.

Up 6 Down 4

Reality Bites Back on Oct 16, 2019 at 5:45 pm

To - Reality Bites? Is that why you avoid it?
Do you realize the irony of your post?

Neo-cons are Liberals with a conscience. Neo-cons were the Liberals who became disenfranchised with the ideological licentiousness of liberalism. They were the intelligent Liberals who saw the immaturity and the danger of that immaturity manifest in liberalism.

This split or reconciling occurred in the 60s during an earlier period of civil unrest and if it happens again... Well... I think at some point a loss of intelligence can be fatal to an organ if not an organization. We can only hope.

I just love the irony when a Liberal meme goes viral... As liberalism is pathological.

Up 6 Down 16

Reality bites on Oct 16, 2019 at 4:31 pm

I think it is time we realize that a lot of yukon party, neo con, reformer types like to
comment on this site and agree with each others comments. Fortunately they do not come close to forming the majority.

Up 18 Down 3

Eric Blair on Oct 16, 2019 at 11:09 am

I listened to the Legislature's Question Period on the radio yesterday and was quite disappointed in the answers Ms Frost gave when asked about the Liberal government's plans to improve housing for low income people. It was the same tone and arrogance she used when responding to earlier questions about improving medical travel costs. Budget cuts to programs that were proven to work, like the Downpayment Assistance Program is a clear example- I believe it was said the program was cut 80% and nothing was created as a replacement to help these families wanting to buy a new home.
There was also a good long list of things read out the Silver Liberal government could find money for which were not nearly as important as an affordable place to live or for medical travel.
Income testing is the harbringer of more Liberal hands in our pockets because they are poor money managers...just like their federal counterparts. Now that I think about it- the arrogance is the same too. Maybe its required to be a Liberal politcian?

Up 19 Down 4

G H on Oct 15, 2019 at 2:10 pm

Frost is so so so bad

Up 37 Down 5

Sally on Oct 15, 2019 at 8:28 am

I think it is time for us all to realize that Minister Frost is out of her element.

Up 43 Down 5

JC on Oct 14, 2019 at 9:02 pm

Affordable housing. You better bring the rents down to about $600 a month again. Because except for government workers, that's about all most low paid workers can afford.

Up 39 Down 6

Jay on Oct 14, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Pauline Frost might be the worst Minister in the history of the Yukon.

Up 15 Down 16

Anderson’s Game on Oct 12, 2019 at 10:53 pm

@ David Anderson - If people cannot imply a negative intention you cannot hold a positive one either. One should remain neutral. The fundamental requirement of objectivity is neutrality.

You offered the following:
“One fact is that hundreds of people are housed by the Government, and the Government continues to take steps to do better. Let's not forget that.”

It is not fact. It is not fact. You obviously do not know what a fact is. Facts, quite simply, are things that are true about things. They are contextual and have no spacial or temporal location - They reside only in motivated consensus. Thus, a fact does not exist independent of its purpose and to truly understand a fact one must know the purpose of its existence.

Your base predicate is ignorant. People are not housed by the government. It is not government money but rather tax payer monies that are housing people. This is not just semantics but rather a more direct and honest way of looking at the issue.

Provide the evidence for your subjectivity so your opinion can be assessed on its merits.
You have not offered fact but rather your opinion in your attempt to discount the opinions of others. That is an example of hypocrisy. The incessant non-evidenced, positivism is not just annoying but it is also untrue and it is dangerous as it distracts us from the true nature of things.

Up 35 Down 10

Matthew on Oct 12, 2019 at 8:23 am

This is an easy one.. STOP gov workers from buying a house who is in contract. It is a completely false housing market based on the massive amount of gov contract workers who leave every year or 2. We are paying a staggering $425K for a house built in 1970s with 2x4 walls and R12 insulation, not to mention a COMPLETE reno needs to be done worth $150K to make houses more energy efficent and install new updated bathrooms and kitchen! We need long term residents to make Yukon thrive!

Up 13 Down 28

William Close on Oct 11, 2019 at 10:10 pm

“I think the current government is doing better than some previous governments have done in at least recognizing these are issues we need to be grappling with”, stated Craig.
This is my favorite line and quote in this story.

Up 34 Down 8

Lost In the Yukon on Oct 11, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Rather sad to see the Yukon Ant-Poverty Coalition deftly co-opted by the Liberal Government. Smart move on Pauline Frost’s part, promise them money and a seat at the table and now you have what used to be an honest advocacy group becoming your defender. Shame

Up 13 Down 36

David Anderson on Oct 11, 2019 at 4:36 pm

I'm pretty sure the Yukon Government isn't trying to keep units vacant. An uninhabited unit may be unsafe, it may need major renovations, there could be an oil spill somewhere, etc... Let's not jump to too many conclusions without knowing all the facts.

One fact is that hundreds of people are housed by the Government, and the Government continues to take steps to do better. Let's not forget that.

Up 36 Down 11

Juniper Jackson on Oct 11, 2019 at 3:34 pm

I saw an ad today for a 3 bedroom 2 bath for rent for $3,500. a month and doesn't cover heat or power. To THAT landlord..that's really quite affordable for his lovely house.. to me? Not so much. I think it's time, really LONG past time that some government looks at AFFORDABLE housing. Not what the guy making 200k a year thinks is affordable.. what someone like me thinks is affordable. Maybe it's time for rent control..after all.. governments are famous for saying..oh..they do it every where else...

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