Whitehorse Daily Star

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Councillor Betty Irwin and Patricia Bacon

Way cleared for tiny houses project

Five affordable housing units for vulnerable people living in Whitehorse will not solve the housing problem.

By Stephanie Waddell on January 31, 2018

Five affordable housing units for vulnerable people living in Whitehorse will not solve the housing problem.

However, “it’s a start” that will mean five people have a safe place to live, city councillor Betty Irwin said Monday night.

She and her council colleagues were unanimous in supporting second and third readings of a bylaw that will allow for a five-unit tiny home development at Sixth Avenue and Jarvis Street being developed by the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre.

The development will offer supportive, affordable housing to those in need.

The previous zoning would have allowed for four units. Blood Ties Four Directions, the project proponent, requested the zoning change to allow for a fifth unit.

Patricia Bacon, Blood Ties’ executive director, explained in an earlier presentation to council that having an additional unit would provide one more person with housing. It would also give Blood Ties a little more financial “wiggle room.”

The project will be similar to what was offered through the Steve Cardiff House a few years ago.

Through that, one Blood Ties client each year lived in the 240-square-foot Steve Cardiff House for a one-year period and accessed programming.

That program ended in 2016, when the owners of the lot where the house sat decided to move ahead with their own plans for the site.

This project would see the Steve Cardiff House taken out of storage as one of the five units for the site.

The other four units will be similar in size and layout to the Steve Cardiff House.

The program will be operated in much the same way, with supports offered to clients living there.

There will not be the one-year time restriction for residents to live there, though.

Bacon noted that the organization learned a lot from operating the Steve Cardiff House and realized it’s better not to limit the time residents can live there.

As she explained, the clients’ health issues are serious, and the one year is spent just getting to a stable place.

Residents’ rent will be based on income.

Bacon has said the project will be the group’s focus for this year as it’s developed.

Irwin was vocal in her support of the project before she voted with the rest of council in favour of the rezoning Monday.

She called out a resident who had contacted her ahead of the meeting to argue against housing for “these people,” as the caller had referred to them.

Irwin made clear her position that safe housing is a basic right that all people deserve.

She described many of the city’s vulnerable as “economic refugees”, stating they are refugees from a system that failed them in not giving them the supports they need.

“They need our help just as much as refugees from other countries because they belong to our community, just as we welcome the refugees from other countries,” Irwin said.

“They are part of our community. They are citizens here.”

She went on to comment on just how difficult it can be for residents to acquire a permanent job if they don’t have an address to provide to prospective employers.

Irwin then offered her praises for the initiative that will provide safe housing for nearly half a dozen people.

In an interview early this afternoon, Bacon said the group is “very happy” council voted in favour of the zoning and sees the role it can play in addressing housing.

She expects ground will be broken in early spring with work happening on the property throughout the summer and the homes in place with residents in the fall.

The project – including the purchase of the site – is costing approximately $700,000.

Comments (2)

Up 0 Down 0

drum on Feb 5, 2018 at 4:46 pm

I agree about put your money where your mouth is. Many people could have put the Steve Cardiff Tiny house on their property if they felt so strong about the project. I am sure that I am not reading the article properly and have missed who owns the lot where these five houses will be, who bought it and how much was paid. Are the Taxpayers of Whitehorse going to own the lot!!!!! or Blood Ties Four Directions or the City of Whitehorse.

Up 2 Down 0

downtown on Jan 31, 2018 at 9:22 pm

Why didn't Betty put Steve Cardiff house in her back yard over the past 3 years or whatever it has been since it has been mothballed? Honest question. I was shocked / amazed that not a single one of the people from the various anti-poverty / housing / ndp / liberal etc organizations, not a single one offered to have this tiny home in their own yard.

So put a cork in it with criticizing a neighbour who didn't want a zoning change to accommodate 5 tiny homes on his or her neighbourhood. You had your chance to put your money where your mouth is but said 'no'.

That said, this looks like a good project and I hope it goes well. I just don't like the hypocrisy of Betty Irwin calling down a concerned resident. She didn't want 'those people' in her yard either. And neither did any of the others.

Peace, none of us is a saint.

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