Housing crisis

Focal Point of Housing Crisis in Draft Community Plan for Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory – Eye on the Arctic

Mike Gau, Whitehorse’s director of development, says one of the main goals of the proposed community plan is how to increase the city’s housing supply to keep up with its projected strong growth. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Plan tackles housing and charts new neighborhoods to keep up with rapid growth

For the first time in a decade, Whitehorse has a new draft Official Community Plan and its main focus is how Whitehorse officials will address the current housing crisis within the city limits.

Housing is definitely the number one issue in our community,” said Mike Gau, director of city development services.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that…the highlights…are all directly related to housing.

the Draft plan of 112 pages sets out the City’s priorities for land use planning and development for the next 20 years.

Proposed changes to downtown building height limits

The biggest challenge the city will face is how housing supply will keep up with the territory’s rapid population growth, the draft plan says.

Yukon’s population has increased by 12.1% in six years, according to the 2021 census, a figure that far exceeds that of other provinces and territories in Canada.

The city estimates it will need 6,150 new homes to keep up with Whitehorse’s growth, and officials are getting creative about how that’s going to happen.

Traffic on Main Street in Whitehorse shortly before Christmas 2015. (Cory Correia/CBC)

To meet this demand, the draft plan suggests increasing the height of downtown buildings, only where appropriate, to a maximum of 11 stories (or 32.5 meters), from six stories (25 meters).

The project makes these changes to all buildings except those on Main Street, which they suggest should be kept 20 meters away.

Gau said more specific policies, like zoning bylaws, will need to be drafted to determine where and when these buildings can be built.

Plan sketches of new neighborhood spots

Officials believe most of the town’s housing potential is in Whistle Bend, their newest subdivision.

The neighborhood could see about 2,700 new units there over the next 20 years, according to the draft plan.

New homes sold in Whitehorse’s Whistle Bend subdivision, May 2020. The city projects an additional 2,700 units could be built in this neighborhood and will play a major role in meeting community plan goals. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Small lots of green space in this part of town, including along Holly Street, are also suggested as potential rezoning opportunities for greater housing growth.

The city is also proposing changes outside of downtown, identifying where new neighborhoods could be planned if needed, including a location south of Copper Ridge.

Some neighborhoods, including Whistle Bend, will get what authorities call “urban cores, which are transit-accessible locations with a mix of housing and private property.

Mélodie Simard, manager of the city’s planning and sustainability services, said the goal of these urban hubs is to reduce the number of people who have to drive from the suburbs to get to downtown Whitehorse for their basic needs.

Simard said the opportunities presented in the draft plan could produce more than the 6,200 units needed to keep up with growth.

“We are not dependent on a single project. So if we don’t move forward, there are other opportunities,” Simard said.

We try to avoid a situation where there is a lag in the supply of units over a few years.

The complete project must be presented by August

The draft plan is just that, for now. City officials will hold public consultations on the plan beginning with open houses across the city. They will take place on:

It is also possible to attend a virtual open house on May 31 or submit your thoughts via an online survey.

Simard said the goal is to be able to present city council with a final version of the community plan by early August.

Northern Related Stories:

Canada: Nunavut MP lobbies minister for ‘desperately needed’ northern housing, CBC News

Finland: Report highlights top 5 housing problems in Finland, Yle News

Norway: Population decline in arctic NorwayThe Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Abandoned properties a challenge for rural SwedenRadio Sweden

United States: Budget cuts threaten transitional housing program in Alaska’s largest city, Alaska Public Media