Yukon gov't taking bids for empty Whitehorse lot with a view to more housing
Years after an empty lot in downtown Whitehorse was first considered for housing, the Yukon government is finally taking bids to develop the property — but the winning contract will now have to factor in protection from landslides.
The government-owned parcel at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street has been considered for high-density housing since the Yukon Party was last in power back in 2015, but nothing has been done there in that time.
The current Liberal government promised the property beneath the clay cliffs would be sold for the development of up to 300 rental units — much-needed as the territory faces a housing shortage that's driven rents and real estate prices up.
The site was formerly used to store fuel, and in 2016, soil there was found to be contaminated, requiring remediation before the property could be put to tender.
The government was ready to take development proposals last spring. But landslides from the clay cliffs above the property put the safety of the site in question.
The government, in collaboration with the City of Whitehorse, said it wouldn't take bids from developers until the risks of future landslides in the area were assessed. The added delay garnered steady criticism from the Yukon Party in the Legislative Assembly last year.
That assessment is now complete, and developers will have until May 4 to submit their proposals for the lot.
The successful bid will now come with conditions.
The developer awarded the contract will have to build a berm, or natural barrier, at the base of the cliffs that border the lot to protect it from future landslides. It will also have to remove existing, dilapidated structures from the property and adhere to a permit that lays out safe development under remaining contamination.
Depending on the developer's plans, power lines may also have to be buried.
Lot has 'incredible potential' for housing, says premier
Despite the delays, premier Ranj Pillai told the Legislative Assembly Thursday that the property at Fifth and Rogers still has "incredible potential" to bring relief to the territory's housing crisis.
"Our government is, again, continuing to deliver on our commitment to increase housing supply in the territory so that all Yukoners have a place to call home," he said.
"This is something that successive governments have talked about. We will move on it. We think it's important that the private sector plays a key role in the diversity of our housing ecosystem."
Yukon NDP MLA Emily Tredger responded to the premier's statement as the third-party's housing critic.
"It is a relief to see that this parcel of land will now finally be available for development, and I'm hopeful that this is the last we hear of Fifth and Rogers, other than from new tenants telling their friends where they have just moved to," she said.
Pillai said delays had been necessary to guarantee the safety of future residents of the site.
Tredger added that the government should make affordability a priority for any future housing built there.
Affordability is one of several evaluation criteria on which development proposals will be scored. Others include cost, scheduling and collaboration with First Nations. The bid with the highest score will be referred to a management board for final approval. If approved, the property will be sold for development.