Photo by Whitehorse Star
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.
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