Whitehorse man fighting to save 'purple cabin' the Yukon gov't says is unsafe

·3 min read
Eric DeLong has lived in a purple house in downtown Whitehorse for about the last four years. Now, he's fighting for the lease for the land the home sits on to be renewed, after the Yukon government recently said it has expired. ( Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)
Eric DeLong has lived in a purple house in downtown Whitehorse for about the last four years. Now, he's fighting for the lease for the land the home sits on to be renewed, after the Yukon government recently said it has expired. ( Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)

For about the last four years, Eric DeLong has lived in a purple painted house in downtown Whitehorse, which he's dubbed "the purple cabin."

But he might not be able to call it his home much longer after the Yukon government said the lease for the land the house sits on is over, and that it will not renew it due to safety concerns.

The Whitehorse resident is now fighting to keep his downtown rental house, on Sixth Avenue and Lambert Street, and recently started an online campaign to save the home.

DeLong sublets the cabin from the lease owner of the property, Leonard Tarka, who was approved for a lease of this site for what was understood to be his entire life, back in 1988. The lease began in 1991, and Tarka is still alive. There is a 1988 letter from the former Minister of Transport and Community Services Piers McDonald that states that the cabin is approved for a "life estate lease."

But the Government of Yukon's Land Management Branch disagrees with what is meant by the 1991 lease's wording.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Jesse Devost, the director of communications for Yukon Government's Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, said the lease on the property expired on Sept. 30, since the lease term states "To have and to hold for 30 years, or the life of the Lessee from October 1, 1991."

Wayne Vallevand/CBC
Wayne Vallevand/CBC

That means, according to the government, that in keeping with legislation, the lease could have only been issued for 30 years and not life.

"Hence the '30 year or life' statement must be read '30 years or life, whichever comes first,'" Devost said.

The email also said the Government of Yukon is not obliged to renew the lease as per legislation on the Squatters Policy.

Devost wrote that the nearby escarpment poses a "high risk of mudslides," too.

"There was a recent slide about 20 metres away from the property this year and the risk of impact by further slides is high," it reads.

"The Government of Yukon is very concerned about safety of properties close to the escarpment such as this one. Because of the terrain instability we want to have the site vacated."

But DeLong says that's wrong, and argues the property is outside of the downtown Whitehorse escarpment control zone.

Taylor Eshpeter, the manager of Engineering Services with the city, says the situation is complicated.

Wayne Vallevand/CBC
Wayne Vallevand/CBC

He said, based on an assessment done by engineers in 2012, the property, including the house, mostly falls in a moderate risk zone while a portion of the property falls within a high hazard zone.

"It means that there is a risk," Eshpeter said.

But, he pointed out that buildings are still allowed to be built in the zone where the house sits, as long they follow the requirements, like not having a basement, based on a site-by-site basis.

Despite what the government says, DeLong wants to stay put.

"There's a housing crisis in this town. There are limited places to rent for reasonable rent prices," he said.

For now, he's hoping to drum up public support through his Facebook page.

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