Whitehorse woman says Yukon rent cap responsible for eviction from rental apartment

·4 min read
Jasmine Jobson sits in her apartment in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 23, 2021. She said she's being evicted thanks to a term in the Yukon government's rent cap that limits how much landlords can raise rent prices, even if tenants agree to a higher amount.  (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)
Jasmine Jobson sits in her apartment in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 23, 2021. She said she's being evicted thanks to a term in the Yukon government's rent cap that limits how much landlords can raise rent prices, even if tenants agree to a higher amount. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)

A Whitehorse woman is being evicted from her apartment at the end of December, a situation she blames on the Yukon government's rent cap and a term that prevented her landlord from raising her rent a certain amount even with her consent.

Jasmine Jobson, who's lived in a two-bedroom apartment in downtown Whitehorse for more than a year and a half, told CBC News that her landlords wanted to increase her rent by about $200 a month to cover costs.

While she said she was happy to pay the additional amount, a policy introduced by the territorial government in May limits residential rent increases to the same rate as the consumer price index (CPI), which helps measure inflation.

Rent increases are currently limited to one per cent, which, in Jobson's case, would amount to around $12.

Jobson said she and her landlords tried to find legal ways to get around the cap, including signing a new lease. However, the cap also prohibits rent increases that exceed the CPI if a tenant stays in the same unit even with a new lease.

Jobson's landlords ultimately evicted her, despite her wanting to stay and being willing to pay more. She described the situation as "disappointing."

"I've done a lot to give myself this life, and I'm doing everything correctly — my landlords and I have a great relationship, my boss and I have a great relationship," she said.

"I'm working every day and doing everything that I'm supposed to do, so it's really disheartening that the only thing getting in the way is this legislation that was supposed to help me."

No-cause evictions the real issue, NDP says

The brainchild of the Yukon NDP, the rent cap became reality after the party signed a supply-and-confidence agreement with the minority Liberal government following the territorial election last spring.

NDP MLA and housing critic Emily Tredger told CBC News that while she had heard of situations similar to Jobson's, the real "crux of the issue" wasn't the rent cap, but the fact that the Yukon allows for evictions without cause.

"Unfortunately, landlords are using that to get around the rent cap — so because they can't raise the rent with that tenant, they evict the tenants so that they can raise the rent," Tredger said.

"… [The] Liberals know about this problem. They're choosing to let it happen. They could change it today. They could close that loophole today."

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said he'd only heard about two or three possible rent cap-related evictions, and that there was an "awful lot of anecdotal information" about the rent cap's impact.

However, he said he's asked the residential tenancies office to track complaints and was also speaking to groups like the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, which is calling for a six-month moratorium on no-cause evictions, and landlord-tenant associations.

"I'm hoping to come together with community services and these groups and try to find solutions or try to come up with a way forward so we can try to protect the renters in the territory and landlords," he said.

"We want to make sure that we do our due diligence to make sure that we don't cause any more unintended consequences in the marketplace."

Mostyn couldn't give a specific timeline for when any changes might happen, but said he was hoping to "bring people together over the coming weeks."

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon, meanwhile, called for the removal of the rent cap altogether.

"What we know is that rent control doesn't work and has a perverse impact on our housing supply and in particular our rental units," he said.

"... I think that it's obviously a flawed policy and one that wasn't well thought out."

Not a 'little mistake to brush off'

Jobson, for her part, said that while there was a lot of political "finger-pointing going on," she didn't care for it and wanted to see action instead.

"At the end of the day, there are a lot of people that are losing their houses right now," she said.

"... This isn't some little mistake to just brush off like, 'Oh well, we'll fix that in the next campaign promise.' No, you know? Let's fix it yesterday because I'm losing the apartment and I have to move during Christmas. This is not okay. We have to address this. We have to address it now."

She added that while she'd found a temporary place to stay after December, she was having trouble finding a permanent arrangement — Whitehorse has a vacancy rate of about two per cent — and was sad to lose her current apartment.

"I remember telling my friends when I moved in that, 'This is my apartment, I'm going to die here, this is it,'" she said.

"... I really like this place, and I'm jealous — I'm thinking about how other people are going to be moving in here and living in my room and putting their clothes in my closet, like, 'How dare you? This is my home.'"

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