Letter to the Editor: Affordable Housing - December 19, 2014

Dear Mr. Editor:

I began the fall sitting by calling for the resignation of Community Services Minister Brad Cathers, over his bungling of the affordable housing file. On October 27, Whitehorse Mayor and Council echoed my call for Cathers’ resignation due to his failure to work with municipalities on this important issue.

For eight years, the Cathers/Pasloski government sat on millions of federal housing dollars while residents faced high rents and limited options. This spring announcements were finally made to move forward on partnership projects with the private sector. However, in the face of pressure from special interests closely linked to the Yukon Party, Brad Cathers cancelled plans for 75 new affordable rental units over the summer.

This was a political decision, not one based on the needs of Yukoners.  Minister Cathers broke his earlier promise that it would be the Yukon Housing Corporation board, not him or the Yukon Party,  that determined which housing project would proceed (Legislative Assembly, May 15, 2014).

Since then he has scrambled to find a way to spend the money. This October there was a meeting to discuss various options, the majority of which were not affordable housing. The government has announced $3 million to be allocated to the Salvation Army expansions, a project that is worthy of government assistance, but by no means qualifies as affordable housing.

Last week it was announced that Energy, Mines and Resources would be using $1.4 of the remaining money for an energy efficiency rebate program. I am all in favour of making Yukon homes more efficient, but this hardly solves the problem of affordable housing and is not what this money is intended for.

The Whitehorse and Yukon Chambers of Commerce have been vocal in criticizing the Ministers actions on affordable housing.

Minister Cathers has repeatedly shown he is either incapable or unwilling to deliver on affordable rental housing in Whitehorse.  I would not be the least surprised to see him moved out of the portfolio by the spring session, even the Premier must have begun to wonder about his minister by now.

Sandy Silver
Leader, Yukon Liberal Party