Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

RALLYING FOR A CAUSE – A group of people held a rally for affordable housing outside the Jim Smith Building on Tuesday.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn speaks with Michael Dougherty at the rally.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Kate Mechan

Rally goers protest no-cause evictions, end of rent caps

For National Housing Day, Whitehorse residents and advocates gathered outside the legislative assembly on Tuesday to protest no-cause evictions and the expiration of rent control in the territory.

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on November 23, 2022

For National Housing Day, Whitehorse residents and advocates gathered outside the legislative assembly on Tuesday to protest no-cause evictions and the expiration of rent control in the territory.

The group of about 20 people, organized by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition (YAPC), were also asking the Yukon government to shift its approach to the current housing crunch.

“Today, we’re calling for a name change from ‘National Housing Day,’ to ‘the National Right to Housing Day,’” YAPC co-chair Charlotte Hrenchuk told the crowd, who’d gathered with picket signs which they held up to passing street traffic.

“Housing is a human right, which has been accepted by all levels of government here in this territory. However, our housing policies and programs do not reflect this.”

National Housing Day started in 2000, two years after the federal government declared a national homelessness emergency.

Currently, more than 200 people are known to be unhoused in Whitehorse.

Hrenchuk said housing is seen as a commodity, not an essential human right or need, and government attitudes need to change.

That means more non-market housing, she said. Leaving prices to the private sector, she said, won’t level out housing costs any time soon.

The average price of a house in Whitehorse was a record-high $701,200 in the third quarter of this year, according to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

For those who can’t even dream of buying a house right now, rental costs are also a concern.

The YAPC released a report this year that found “the rising cost of rental housing remains the most significant affordability challenge for low- and modest-income Yukoners.”

The bureau found the median rent for all types of units in Whitehorse in 2021 was $1,233.

Though rally-goers were broadly pushing for a paradigm shift for housing as a social asset instead of a financial one, they had specific concerns too: rent control and evictions.

Kate Mechan is the executive director of Safe at Home Society. She spoke with the Star at the rally about how she wants the Yukon’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act reviewed.

“It’s no longer anecdotal that tenants are being adversely impacted by certain things in the Tenancy Act,” she said. “For example, no-cause evictions have a detrimental impact.”

No-cause evictions are legal only in the Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Unlike other places, and we live in one of the coldest places in the country, people can be evicted at any time, including in the middle of the winter,” Mechan added.

“So we have families currently who receive a no-cause eviction and have absolutely nowhere to go.”

She also said rent control needs to be reviewed and kept permanently.

Rent caps were brought in as part of an agreement between the Yukon’s NDP and Liberals in 2021. However, the NDP-led initiative, which allows landlords to raise rent each year by the annual Consumer Price Index figure for Whitehorse (3.3 per cent in 2020), will expire along with the two-party agreement after January 2023.

“As soon as we don’t allow for a certain amount of control,” Mechan said, “we’re going to put people in situations where they can’t afford their rent, in a landscape where people already can’t afford their rent.”

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn told the legislature this month that the government is not looking to renew rent control after January, calling it a temporary measure.

Mostyn spoke with rally-goers Tuesday on his way to the floor of the legislature.

He told them he agrees the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act needed review, but rally-goers pressed him, saying the government has said it would review the act for two years now.

Mostyn also reiterated that rent control is likely on its way out. Rally-goers, including Mechan and Hrenchuk, told him rent control is as important as removing no-cause evictions from the Landlord and Tenant Act.

Mechan told the Star rent control needs to be reviewed alongside the act, and all stakeholders – government, landlords, tenants and advocates – should be involved in that process.

The rally ended before assembly proceedings began inside.

The rally-goers moved to the gallery, where they were welcomed as guests of the legislative assembly for National Housing Day.

None of the issues raised at the rally were raised or debated Tuesday.

Comments (22)

Up 13 Down 0

AdmiralA$$ on Nov 29, 2022 at 8:12 am

I wonder how many empty homes the government currently owns? I know of one house 3 doors down still sitting empty, has been empty since June. It was only occupied by a new Ontario government worker for 3 months total this year.

Housing crisis they say...manufactured housing shortage maybe, deep unchecked inflation in asset classes causing massive class gaps...most likely. Next BoC rate hike is going to start causing negative equity in many homes bought during the pandemic. The air is about to leave this massive bubble, leaving many with more debt then value.

Up 22 Down 12

Steven on Nov 26, 2022 at 8:21 am

Totally agree on the vacancy tax. How long has the old DQ been sitting there downtown? 15 years? More? But as land prices keep going up and up, I just imagine the current owner sitting there, salivating at how much more they could make if they just wait 'one more month' before selling. Now the only option is for someone to buy it at a grossly inflated price, and build condos that only rich people can afford in order to cover the purchase price.

Up 41 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Nov 25, 2022 at 9:13 am

While some believe that housing is a basic human right, nobody is obligated to provide that housing.
The UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is where this belief of housing as a basic human right began. Post war Europe saw many cities desimated by the war and many thousands displaced from their homes.. Housing was severly impacted and many could not find a place to rent because of their last name, country of origin, political ideology and similar factors that some potential landlords would take offense to. So the UN tried to fix things with their housing declaration to correct post war social impacts. Times have changed and the impediment to acquiring housing is now largely about affordability and availability. Declarations from governments or unelected bodies like the UN will not fix this, unless modifications are made to financial realities that will reduce the cost of living.

Up 20 Down 20

20 people of 40,000 on Nov 24, 2022 at 1:16 pm

PS - I agree with the statemet about the vacancy tax. Sitting on empty lots should come at an extra cost when there is so much demand for housing. The infrastructure has been built to service these lots and if they are not being used for the purpose they were devloped, there should be a penalty for that beyond a certain amount of time.

Up 47 Down 9

20 people of 40,000 on Nov 24, 2022 at 1:10 pm

They managed to rustle up 20 people. More than that comment in these comment pages, and not in favour of trashing landlords!

The idea that everyone deserves a house, and that if they can't afford one then landlords need to give them a rental place that approximates a house but have to charge a lot less than they'd pay for a house because renters can't afford to pay the real cost, is completely illogical and immoral.

There is no such thing as 'eviction without cause' in the Yukon. You can give notice according to the act, which says a minimum of two calendar months to renters. And no landlord out there just wakes up and says, "I'm going to give notice to someone for no reason at all."

As for less than 2 month's notice, yes you can evict someone, but you most certainly DO need a 'cause'. Not only that, you need a court date and you need to prove your case to a justice of the peace or judge!

So let's drop the nonsense, mkay? I know that's a lot to ask from this crowd.

Up 51 Down 10

Bill on Nov 24, 2022 at 12:42 pm

I have zero tolerance for this type of greedy socialism. It is no longer society providing a safety net for folks the "truly" need it but rather catering to the over privileged, pandered, lazy, unproductive people that love to thrive on other peoples pocket books.

Just do us a favour and leave. Oh, please feel free to take your NDP brethren with you. They are the scourge of the political landscape.

Up 37 Down 5

Is this that freedom stuff going on? on Nov 24, 2022 at 11:55 am

Come people - There were only 10 participants. Michael Dougherty protests everything so his presence does not really count. There are two people without signs, perhaps they just stopped to ask for directions?

Up 48 Down 15

John on Nov 24, 2022 at 10:36 am

...well, their numbers are getting smaller "and" fewer people are paying any attention. It is what happens when you continually cry wolf, or should I say whine and snivel?

Thousands ++++ found the solution, perhaps you should learn from it. Get a job and meaningfully contribute to society. The rewards will be amazing. That is the solution. Stop pointing fingers at every one else for your problems. Ninety-nine point nine of Yukoners manage quite nicely this principle. The other option - move - right out of the Yukon. Go to a place where they will pander to your each and every whims.

Up 19 Down 25

Yukoner on Nov 24, 2022 at 8:06 am

@Yukoner1 blaming Mechan for the High Country is pretty ridiculous, that was a Liberal kick back to NVD that was forced down everyones throat. How are you going to blame a 'not for profit' that the building the were given had tonnes of issues that need to be fixed, maybe blame Ranj or Housing Corp for that.

Up 39 Down 4

iBrian on Nov 24, 2022 at 4:11 am

Housing a Basic Human rights
! Ha.
Contact CMHC and ask why they continue to increase the cost of a simple House? If building codes were not as elevated as they are, homes wouldn’t be costing over $400 a sq Ft to build. Maybe then they would be more affordable

Up 12 Down 24

Gavin R. Putland on Nov 23, 2022 at 11:35 pm

What's better than rent control? A tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings. While rent control makes it less attractive to supply accommodation, a vacant-property tax makes it less attractive NOT to! Such a tax, although sometimes called a "vacancy tax", is not limited to what real-estate agents call "vacancies" — that is, properties available for rent. It also applies to vacant lots and empty properties that are not on the rental market, and prompts the owners to put them onto the market and get them occupied in order to avoid the tax.

By the way, the desired *avoidance* of the vacant-property tax would initiate economic activity, expanding the bases of other taxes and allowing their rates to be reduced, so that everyone else—including tenants, home owners, and landlords with tenants—would pay LESS tax!

Up 8 Down 28

bonanzajoe on Nov 23, 2022 at 7:52 pm

@Vlad on Nov 23: How many people even knew. Had I known, I would have been protesting with them.

Up 37 Down 6

NO WAY on Nov 23, 2022 at 6:59 pm

No way, no. The NDP created lots of hassles already. Properties sold, problem solved for landlords who don't want the policies that state that rents can't go up at all, and YOU CAN'T EVICT, even if somebody is trashing your place!!! So did the average renter find more reasonable rent or did they get evicted as their building was sold?
You can't always get what you want...and clearly this is not getting what you need. Head shake. And not surprised at the dismal turnout; most of us know this is a fiasco already and has done much harm, backfiring on vulnerable people who rent.

Up 17 Down 27

Totally real name on Nov 23, 2022 at 5:34 pm

Is it possible people are being gouged so badly they cannot afford to take time off to protest?

Up 32 Down 5

Max Mack on Nov 23, 2022 at 5:25 pm

"No-cause evictions are legal only in the Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador."

This is either flat-out wrong or gross misinformation. I urge the Star to check facts and not merely repeat talking points.

Up 42 Down 9

iuse torent on Nov 23, 2022 at 5:20 pm

Like most other people willing to work for things, I rented until I was 36 and learned to save, work hard and then buy a home. Ownership was not "immediately affordable". There are all kinds of rentals on the market...so go rent a place you can afford. If you hate where you live, I hope it motivates you to get and education, work hard and move along in life.

My worry now is the Government becoming too involved in providing housing, as in the new 300 units discussed downtown. There is a risk that Government overbuild and negatively impact the hard working owners who rent places, home owners who rent part of their home etc. ENOUGH is enough. Don't just build because a handful of complainers are complaining.

Up 36 Down 8

The pigs are more equal on Nov 23, 2022 at 4:57 pm

Wow, 200 freedom protesters couldn’t get this kind of press.

Up 76 Down 9

Vlad on Nov 23, 2022 at 3:31 pm

Thousands of renters and we have here 11 people…

Up 80 Down 9

Yukoner1 on Nov 23, 2022 at 3:06 pm

"Mechan told the Star rent control needs to be reviewed alongside the act, and all stakeholders – government, landlords, tenants and advocates – should be involved in that process."

No, Mechan needs to go get her housing project opened. The taxpayers bought that building (a former HOTEL) how long ago? And Mechan doesn't have anyone using it? Maybe she should stay in her lane......

Up 56 Down 23

Warm Reception on Nov 23, 2022 at 3:06 pm

Pretty small crowd for a reasonably warm Yukon winter day. Didn’t even the anti mask sillies top out over 100+ at their rallies? And that was a much more frigid winter. We ignored them for the right reasons. I’m not sure any change of policy needs to occur here.

Maybe we should start an NGO to offer free flights South? Likely a whole lot cheaper and effective. Might actually be worth funding. Call it compassion. As long as you call it compassion, you can rip apart all reasonable norms, right?

Up 79 Down 13

Juniper Jackson on Nov 23, 2022 at 2:52 pm

20 people out of 2000 some renters? Housing is not an 'essential human right". It's something the Western world came up with to encourage Europeans to come occupy the land. Even then, they had to work for it. This IS a modern West..and I want people to have lots of food, housing, computers, perks.. but i don't want to pay for yours. Go get a job, go to school and upgrade for a better job.

You don't like the rent? move. My house, my rules. (btw, I am a renter, and I have next to nothing.) But I also respect someone else's property and I would not consider, ever, trying to tell them what to do with it.

Up 62 Down 15

george on Nov 23, 2022 at 2:22 pm

Hey the govy kicked everyone out of Chilkoot and nobody did anything. Anti poverty is selective, only go with funding for their administration it appears.

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