Question re: Affordable Housing - May 15, 2014

Mr. Silver:   In February of this year, the minister issued a news release about the Yukon Housing Corporation’s affordable rental housing development competition. At that time, the minister commented — and I quote: “Announcements on the successful proponents and their projects are anticipated in April.”

It is now the middle of May and we are well into this year’s building season. My question is: When will these projects be announced so that people can get to work on them?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      As minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, I note that the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation was tasked by the government to come up with an innovative approach to utilize the northern housing trust money. They came back with this approach and we appreciate their good work in doing so. Because of the process and the technical work involved, it has taken a little longer than staff had previously expected.

Also, as part of the process — and a very important part of that review — we have engaged Yukon’s former Ombudsman, Hank Moorlag, as a fairness monitor on the review of these applications. Staff are taking their time to get that work done right, and I have left them to do that and I am not going to micromanage or step into their review of the projects.

Mr. Silver:   I do appreciate the answer, but it is worth noting that this is the same housing money that the Yukon Party has been sitting on since 2008. This money could go a long way to addressing the shortfall of affordable housing that we do face in the Yukon.

One of the central questions involved in this process is who decides who gets the money. The government has made much about the fact that they have set up the fairness monitor to help evaluate these proposals. However, during debate on this budget, the minister admitted that it would be he and other members of the Yukon Party government who will be making the final decision on this, moving forward.

Can the minister confirm for the public record today that it is he and the Yukon Party who will be making the final decisions?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      In fact, it will be the board of Yukon Housing Corporation making the final decisions. Management Board approval that was required has been given and the money for the first portion of this is contained in the budget that, unfortunately, I expect the Leader of the Liberal Party will be voting against, as he has voted against every single investment we’ve made in the many areas across the housing continuum, including new social housing and new seniors housing in Yukon communities.

Again, we appreciate the work that is done by the board of Yukon Housing Corporation, and it will be the board of Yukon Housing Corporation that does the final review of these projects and that makes a decision, based on the advice of staff, as to which contracts with successful proponents should be approved.

Mr. Silver:   We’ll see if the recommendations of the fairness monitor and the board are accepted or changed by the minister and his colleagues.

Earlier this year, the Yukon Housing Corporation said that nine projects had been selected to move to the next stage, which is the request for proposals. They include ones in Whitehorse, Dawson City, Carmacks and Carcross. Did the government put a mechanism in place to ensure that some of the funding goes outside of Whitehorse?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      I have to point out to the member that he’s either not understanding or choosing not to reflect in his comments the role of the board of Yukon Housing Corporation and the power that they have to deal with things that government has given them financial spending approval to proceed with. That includes giving them the ability to spend this money in the northern housing trust through this initiative that began with a two-stage process.

The request for qualifications — request for proposals — has included Yukon’s former Ombudsman, Hank Moorlag, as a fairness monitor to assist staff who are assessing and reviewing new proposals. The proposals also contained additional weight in benefit to projects that were outside Whitehorse in recognition of the importance of developing rural housing. I am leaving it to the staff of Yukon Housing Corporation and the members of the review committee and to the board to make that decision.

As I indicated to the member — and he failed to acknowledge in his last question — it will be the board of Yukon Housing that will review the recommendations made by the internal committee. They will then make the final decision on approval of projects.