Affordability one major theme of Yukon's latest housing report

Houses for sale in Whitehorse's Whistle Bend subdivision in 2019. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Houses for sale in Whitehorse's Whistle Bend subdivision in 2019. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Affordability is one of the themes of the Yukon's latest housing report.

The Yukon Bureau of Statistics compiled the data with information from the 2021 census to give a territory-wide view of what's going on for homeowners and renters.

Zane Hill, a senior information officer with the bureau, said he believes the data could be useful for many people in the territory.

"I think the data can be used as a reference point for that snapshot in time," he said.

"So that data could be used by decision-makers or policy-makers to be able to inform them [on] how programs or processes are moving forward."

The report says one in six Yukoners, or just over 15 per cent, are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. That's the threshold used to define "affordable" housing.

That group is almost evenly split between renters (50.7 per cent) and homeowners (47.8 per cent).

Overall, Yukoners are paying an average of $68 dollars more for housing every month, at $1,470, compared to the federal average of $1,402. Those figures include both homeowners and renters.

The cost of homeownership may be causing some Yukoners to shift to the rental market. The report points out that the proportion of Yukoners who are homeowners is down 2.7 per cent compared to 2011.

The report also looks as the rate of core housing need, which refers to housing that is unaffordable, needs at least one major repair or is overcrowded.

There are 2,135 units that fit that definition in the Yukon: 13 percent of all the units in the territory.

That number has going down over time — from over 15 per cent in 2016 — but is still the fourth-highest in the country after Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and B.C.

Highest need in Carcross

The report breaks down core housing need by community. Whitehorse has 1,180 units, or 10.3 per cent of all the city's units, that have at least one core housing need.

Outside of the capital, the highest proportion of homes with at least one core housing need is in Carcross.

The small community of 317 people, less than an hour's drive from Whitehorse, has 75 units, or 45 per cent of its total housing, that is considered unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable.

Ted James, director of infrastructure with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, says there are many reasons to explain that.

Many of the homes in Carcross were built in the 1980s and need major repair work, James said.

Submitted by CTFN
Submitted by CTFN

"Some of the repairs we look at are about health and safety," he said. "Whether your stairs are falling apart, whether you have adequate water sources.

"We're looking to install [heat recovery ventilators] … to get the air quality higher."

A few units are in such disrepair, James continued, that the First Nation also has to weigh whether they're worth repairing at all.

There are also issues, James continued, with how to fund these needed repairs.

When applying for funding, many programs ask for proof of land ownership from the individuals living in the homes and insurance. However, James said these conditions are hard to meet because the First Nation has jurisdiction on all the land in its settlement areas.

Still, James said the First Nation has been able to get some help from the federal government because "they understand the land issue."

The First Nation is partially finished building five new units with money received through Ottawa's Rapid Housing Initiative. They're working on a bid for the next round.

But, James said it's not enough to solve the community's housing issues.

"We need two million to really make a dent in it," James said.

Until they're able to secure more funding, James said the situation is "as good as it can get" in his community.