Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Short housing supply puts sellers in command

Low housing stock in Whitehorse has contributed to a sellers’ market that is raising prices, according to a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

By Gabrielle Plonka on November 16, 2020

Revised - Low housing stock in Whitehorse has contributed to a sellers’ market that is raising prices, according to a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

“Affordability challenges continue to be some of the most pressing issues facing the housing markets in the North,” says the recently released report.

“High costs of land and labour translate into higher costs for housing, and lack of available land for new development further exacerbates the problem.”

The CMHC’s Northern Housing Report for 2020 investigates supply and affordability in the rental and homeownership markets in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit.

According to the report, home prices have increased over the last year, due to low resale inventories.

The average price for a single-detached house in Whitehorse rose 7.4 per cent to $516,200 in 2019. Condominium sales have increased substantially, with condominium prices also rising 9.4 per cent to $376,800.

The report notes that there’s been a rising demand for lower-priced options, spurring the increase in condominium sales.

Single-detached homes remained the most sought-after housing type, and represented more than half of total sales last year.

A household must earn at least $114,749 to purchase a single-detached home in Whitehorse, the report says.

The value of real estate transactions in Whitehorse reached a record high of $308.2 million in 2019 – a 7.6 per cent increase from the previous year.

Whitehorse saw a decline in housing construction in 2019. There were 230 housing starts last year, representing a 40 per cent drop from the previous year. 

More than half of that construction output consists of row units or townhouses.

“Overall, increasing demand for lower-priced options and a shift toward higher-density housing types supported production of multi-family housing over single-detached homes,” the report says.

Only 42 new rental units were built in 2019, the report says.

Construction of new units may see delays due to COVID-19, which has created labour shortages, supply shortages and shipping delays.

The high cost of lumber could also contribute to delayed home construction, the report explains.

The CMHC’s investigation into Whitehorse’s rental market found that housing is unaffordable for many Yukoners.

It estimated that 18 per cent of households required financial assistance to secure market housing. Only 29 per cent of lone-parent households were able to afford market rental housing.

Whitehorse saw a minor decrease in rental demand last year, due to the city’s aging population and declining immigration numbers. The city’s vacancy rate last April was 3.7 per cent.

The average rent for a two-bedroom suite is reported as $1,227 per month. 

That number is provided by a Yukon Bureau of Statistics survey including all buildings with rental units (single detached houses, townhouses, condominiums, apartments, mobile homes, cabins and garden suites).

The average rental price is based on what Whitehorse tenants are currently paying. The price of available units seeking tenants are often higher than that average, according to Len Catling, CMHC’s senior media relations officer.

The vacancy rate for social and affordable rental units is zero per cent in Whitehorse.

(Earlier this month, the Star reported that the waitlist for social housing in the Yukon can span several years.)

The Yukon Housing Corp. is responsible for 88 per cent of the social housing units in the Yukon. The average price for a two-bedroom unit is $695 per month.

According to the CMHC, 46 per cent of the social units in Whitehorse were built before 1989. About half of Whitehorse’s social units were reported as in “good or excellent” condition, and the other half reported as in “average or fair” condition.

According to the 2016 census, about 13 per cent of Whitehorse households were in “core housing need” – meaning their housing situation was inadequate or unaffordable. For housing to be considered affordable, it should cost 30 per cent or less of a household’s before-tax income.

The 2020 Housing Report found that the average rent for a two-bedroom is $1,744 in Yellowknife and $2,736 in Iqaluit. The vacancy rates are 4.2 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

The average price of a home in Yellowknife was $393,339 in 2019 – a 12 per cent decrease from the previous year. 

The average price of a single-detached home in Iqaluit was $528,717.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Whitehorse’s average rent of $1,227 is based on rental buildings with three or more units, as surveyed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The average rent is actually calculated based on all types of buildings with rental units.

Comments (23)

Up 0 Down 0

Jim on Nov 22, 2020 at 1:44 pm

@ greiko, I think you're on the right track with modular or mobile homes developments. But for some reason society seems to think that these don’t qualify for starter homes. We seem to think that every one should be able to afford a stand alone new home. When I was growing up it went first to apartments, then to mobile homes, and then I finally managed a home with a yard. Due to material and labour prices along with over regulated building requirements, nobody will be building a new apartment unless the government or First Nations fund it. Other than a few Whistle Bend lots, what other land is available for development? Most of the land surrounding the city is controlled by First Nations, which is lease only along with income tax implications.

Up 0 Down 0

Wilf Carter on Nov 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Today is national housing day in Canada. The focus is on the homeless. According to specialists and social economist, seniors are now the number one homeless in Canada and the fastest growing sector of homelessness because of taxes, high cost of home heating, food and transportation.

Up 1 Down 3

Wilf Carter on Nov 21, 2020 at 12:13 pm

OYA CAFN and worked with other First Nations government on financing infrastructure going back to 1993 first second round of land claims and second round of land claims in 2007. Anything else you want to know OYA. So who are you OYA and what does OYA stand for?

Up 5 Down 3

drum on Nov 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm

The real estate people make a fortune on commissions on everything they sell - the bigger the price the bigger the commission. Guess who is driving up the prices.

Up 0 Down 0

Oya on Nov 20, 2020 at 4:02 pm

@ Wilf. Director of Housing for which government and for what time period?

Up 7 Down 2

Wilf Carter on Nov 20, 2020 at 2:05 pm

Building prefab homes in Yukon was discussed in 1993 but an NDP premier and Liberal mayor who went to Alberta and saw MB homes said this will not work in Yukon and killed the idea. In Alaska their development Corp looked at this concept and a private group developed a prefab housing corp. Why do politicians think they know best for Yukoners when they don't.

Up 8 Down 4

greiko on Nov 19, 2020 at 5:15 pm

The City is bearing fruits of the past 30 years of dysfunction. Building standards are out of whack, inspectors are subjective and the amount of permits are all time consuming nonsense that drives up the price. I would like city council to start looking at modular and mobile homes like Arkell for example. These home boast 900+ sq feet and would come in at a decent price point. Wouldn't that be nice?

Up 3 Down 2

Wilf Carter on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:22 pm

This is a great piece of reporting on the housing situation in Whitehorse:
Here is the reason our housing situation Whitehorse is where it is at.
IN 2007 there was a study done by Federal Government on housing demand in Yukon over the next 10 years for Municipal, public, private sector and First Nations communities. At that time there was a need of $200 million to be invested in housing in Yukon plus another $160 million for land development to build housing on.
Just so Yukoner know how do I know all this? I was a director of housing for government and was involved.
In 2008 our Federal government created a very aggressive housing support finance program for new housing in Yukon for public and private sector housing and Yukon and First Nations governments to build a lot of new housing units.

In 2015 our Federal Government changed and instead of putting in over $20 mil per year into housing in Yukon it went down to $2.4 million.
Because the plan that was developed in 2008 was not followed by the new Federal Government, housing funding slowed down creating the shortage.
In 2016 there was a new Yukon Government put in place and they did some work on housing but not enough to come close of meeting the demand in all of Yukon.
In 2016 the City of Whitehorse slowed down developed land for all housing including public and private housing creating very unhealthy housing crises in Whitehorse which we are now experiencing.
There is no affordable housing in Yukon now at all.
The first problem with housing prices in Whitehorse is land development. It is not based on realistic pricing with only government being the developer.
With government selling developed housing lots at highest possible prices inflates the price of houses by 15 to 25% more higher than they have to be.
Take a $550,000 house say 20% inflated cost = houses are over inflated by $100,000 making it hard for people to buy a house.

Up 22 Down 2

joe on Nov 18, 2020 at 4:26 pm

@ BnR.. more like when the realtor says your house is worth 400 and the vendor says I want 500 and the buyer comes along and says I'll pay 600.

Up 21 Down 5

Oya on Nov 18, 2020 at 1:57 pm

@ BnR It's got nothing to do with real estate agents. It's the price the market will bear.
A realtor could (though I don't believe they ever would) tell you to list your $400K house at $1M. It's the buyer who is willing to pay only $380 for that house, or $600 for that house, or $1M for that house that sets the market value. Supply and demand; it all boils down to that. Really.
If there are 100 houses on the market in that price range when that $400K house gets listed, it's highly doubtful they would get even their asking price. But if there are very, very few houses in that price range, the house will get snapped up right away. (Just look at any single family house now in Whse that is under $400K and boom! It's gone!)
As the supply dwindles, the prices rise accordingly because people need a place to call home. No demand, prices decrease. Supply and demand. Economics 101. Quit blaming the realtors.

Up 24 Down 16

BnR on Nov 18, 2020 at 7:48 am

Y'know who's laughing all the way to the bank? All the used car salesmen who became realtors.
They can shoulder a lot of the blame for the increased real estate prices. When someone says "Id like to get 500,000 for my house" and the realtor tells them I can get you 600. Well, there ya go.

Up 37 Down 1

Max Mack on Nov 17, 2020 at 1:23 pm

Land supply is definitely an issue affecting housing prices.

However, CMHC and its sister organizations - along with like-minded government regulators and bureaucrats - have been pushing housing standards to an extreme. In addition, regulators and building inspectors are keen to push ever more work and money into the hands of contractors and local manufacturers (i.e. Northerm). Home builders are being buried under a mountain of regulation and standards - often imposed on a whim with no legal authority whatsoever. But, pay no mind . . . the government is keen to impose new regulations if you don't comply with the latest flavour of the day cooked up by a technocratic but unelected elite.

Want proof? Imagine being told your highly-rated triple pane windows that you purchased from a certified Canadian manufacturer for a northern climate aren't acceptable and that you must buy your windows from Northerm.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars in subsidies are being pumped into the hands of developers to build "densified" housing.

I could go on. But, the media doesn't care to investigate this massive circle-jerk of never-ending corruption and abuse of authority.

Up 23 Down 5

Median Income on Nov 17, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Whitehorse median income for 2 or more person households in 2015, fully 5 years ago, was $119,430.

So this headline could be 'Average family can afford average family house'. Yawn. The house prices are driven by what people can afford to pay and the huge and still rapidly growing number of big government incomes here from our transfer payments means they are only going one way.

Up 5 Down 2

martin on Nov 17, 2020 at 10:54 am

@JC: very easy solution; how come nobody thought of that before?

Up 8 Down 9

JC on Nov 17, 2020 at 10:10 am

My Opinion: I think you need to get out more.

Up 25 Down 28

Hur dur on Nov 17, 2020 at 6:01 am

JC, blaming others for your failures is not healthy. The unions didn't conspire to make your life suck, you did that with a series of decisions.
The unions exist so your corporate overlord doesn't get to work you to death. They exist so YOU tell companies what hours you will work and what your benefit package should be. They exist because children used to work and die in the mines. They exist because healthcare and weekends off weren't just given out en masse.
Bash the garbage housing market all you want, it's unrelated to this issue. Completely. Unrelated.
Why do all old people have to make everything about them? Do they need all the attention? Is it that scary getting old?

Up 35 Down 17

Matthew on Nov 17, 2020 at 5:45 am

Here's an idea.. Let's cut municipal and federal staff by 15% each. That will free up housing that is over-inflated just like their wages...

Up 23 Down 4

jack on Nov 16, 2020 at 10:12 pm

The headline should really say 'low interest rates mean anyone can now get a mortgage'

Up 30 Down 5

AA on Nov 16, 2020 at 6:14 pm

Good article in that it balances out some of the truths in the market in Whitehorse right now. E.g. that what people are actually paying for rent is not the average. Unfortunately, it didn't talk about what the lower market is: mobile homes Of course, there is the issue with pad fees going thru the roof as well, but look at the price of condos and the associated condo fees. Crazy. For many, this is the only option and it's a good option when you look and see that all the new complexes being built are $375k+ and usually in the $500K+ zone. That's the part I don't understand. Developers are getting incredible incentives to build, but why are they building units that only the wealthy can afford and why is YK Housing supporting that?

Up 24 Down 3

aint seen nuthin yet on Nov 16, 2020 at 3:10 pm

Y'aint seen nothin yet ... prices will double within the next 10 years.

Up 35 Down 31

JC on Nov 16, 2020 at 3:03 pm

So much for all those ridiculous big raises those unions are demanding and getting.

Up 24 Down 42

JC on Nov 16, 2020 at 3:00 pm

Stop buying houses for a couple of years. That'll solve that problem.

Up 48 Down 71

My Opinion on Nov 16, 2020 at 2:46 pm

Yes, the cost of housing here is high but not nearly as high as in the Big cities.
If you are here and have little or no income or are not able to better your situation there are a lot of cheap places to live. Check out small towns in the interior of BC or Alberta. Real Cheap but maybe not where you want to be.

Or barring that you have to work harder. Maybe your part time job just isn't cutting it. Maybe Social assistance and programs are not the way to go. Maybe the idea of your single parent status and the loss of income associated with that decision was a bad one.
We all are at the mercy of our own decisions and choices. And no it is not easy, for anyone.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.