Yukon gov't inches Whitehorse housing lot closer to development, opposition says not soon enough

Yukon Housing Minister Ranj Pillai says getting a housing project built by the private sector at 5th Avenue and Rogers Street in Whitehorse now hinges on geotechnical work. (Chris Windeyer/CBC - image credit)
Yukon Housing Minister Ranj Pillai says getting a housing project built by the private sector at 5th Avenue and Rogers Street in Whitehorse now hinges on geotechnical work. (Chris Windeyer/CBC - image credit)

Companies will soon be able to bid on a housing project in downtown Whitehorse, according to the Yukon's housing minister, who says roughly 300 affordable housing units could be built at the 5th Avenue and Rogers Street site.

Following question period at the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, Minister Ranj Pillai told reporters the government could solicit proposals early in the new year.

But there's a step that needs to be taken first.

Pillai says geotechnical work needs to be done at the site, after nearby landslides upended many things in Whitehorse over the spring and could have affected the structural integrity of the site.

"What we're trying to ensure is that the private sector has a very clear understanding of what site preparation has to be done and any mitigation efforts that have to be put in place before development occurs," he said.

"We want to build 300 units, but we've got to make sure it's safe to build there."

Mudslinging in the legislature

The opposition Yukon Party, meantime, went after the government this week in the legislature over the project. Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said so far it's just another broken promise.

The Yukon Party has taken aim at various commitments made either during last year's election campaign, and in the confidence and supply agreement signed by the government and the NDP after the election. That agreement expires on January 31.

Dixon told reporters ministers are full of hot air. He said they talk a big game, but the government fails to deliver — and the 5th and Rogers site is an example of that.

"The minister is standing up and saying that this is all because, the delay is strictly because of the slides that occurred this summer, which is completely disingenuous because they've blown every single timeline with regards to this lot," Dixon said.

"I think that it says that this minister has a problem with delivering on his promises."

Pillai, who appeared visibly irritated after Dixon's comments, clapped back, telling reporters the leader of the Official Opposition is prioritizing personal attacks over facts, adding that decorum in the legislature has hit an all-time low.

"We walked in today and the comments were, insult me and ask a question. The leader of the Official Opposition coming out in the scrum today and saying it was disingenuous that it was a slide that did — no, it's not. That's another personal attack," he said.

NDP Leader Kate White said the government is taking to "revisionist history." She said it's already had years to develop that site.

"Right now, you know, the Liberal government they talk about [it] like they were just government [since] 2021, but the truth was they were first elected with a majority in 2016, but they didn't develop 5th and Rogers," she said.

"Really, I think that I would remind both political parties right now that the folks who are the most frustrated are the people who are waiting for homes, who can't afford the homes that they're in."