Question re: Whistle Bend subdivision – April 8, 2013

Mr. Silver: I have a question about the Whistle Bend subdivision. During the planning stages of this development, the Liberal caucus offered the government two pieces of advice: make the lots affordable, and don’t make them the size of a postage stamp. The government ignored both suggestions.

After an extended period of time — a time when there were no government lots for sale in Whitehorse at all — we are now in a situation where there are lots that clearly missed the market demand. It comes back to poor planning. At the height of demand there were no lots available and now, as demand starts to slip, there are small, overpriced lots that the public doesn’t seem to want. It has been more than six months since the lots went up for sale and 75 percent remain unsold.

Why did the government take so long to get these lots on the market, and why are they so overpriced that people can’t afford them?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: I would like to thank the MLA for Klondike for putting his views on the public record, and that is pointing fingers at the City of Whitehorse for poor planning.

That’s not how we on this side of the Legislative Assembly see it. In fact, I believe that the Yukon government has worked very well with the City of Whitehorse and its land development protocol that has been in place for a number of years, which has really led to the design and the planning of the Whistle Bend subdivision. For the very first time in many years, the Yukon government actually has a number of lots that are available over the counter in a number of different communities, of which those particular lots are well worth below the market value.

So just again to correct the record — because I know the MLA for Klondike — we are unfortunately in a bit of a habit of having to correct the record with the member opposite — we are very proud of the government in terms of moving ahead with an adequate supply and range of land options throughout the territory in all communities.

Mr. Silver: I’m merely following the advice from the tribute, and I’m trying to be brave in my attempt to showcase the concerns of Yukoners.

This is what happens when you plan poorly — you end up with lots that are overpriced and too small. I know the minister is unwilling to admit that these government lots clearly missed the market demands, but that’s exactly what happened.

On January 11, a local real estate agent noted that the lot prices are three times higher than lots in Copper Ridge. He told the media, and I quote: “They’ve overpriced themselves so much that people are looking at it and saying I can’t afford that.” The result is six months after they went on sale, more than 75 percent of these lots remain unsold.

There are millions of dollars in the recently announced budget for future lot development in Whitehorse and in the communities. Will the minister commit today to doing a better job planning for these developments so we end up with lots that people actual want and can afford?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: The member on this side of the Legislative Assembly will do a good job in clipping out the comments from the MLA for Klondike and distributing it to every municipality in this territory. The Government of Yukon, unlike the interim Leader of the Liberal Party — I think that’s

what his role is — will be going to work, will continue to work with each of our municipalities on land development protocols like that we have been able to negotiate with the City of Whitehorse and which has been in force and effect for some time.

Again for the member opposite’s record, when it comes to Whistle Bend lot prices, they are approximately 6.5 percent below market value. They are at development cost, and they are available over the counter. A number of those lots have sold and a number of those lots remain for sale.

The Government of Yukon is proceeding with phase 2 of that particular subdivision, which happens to be the largest subdivision in Yukon’s history, and those too will become available later on this fall.

Yukon government is very much committed to working in partnership with municipal governments to bring new residential lots to the market while striving to keep costs at the lowest possible.

Mr. Silver: Another result of the Yukon Party’s poor planning is the building of that subdivision itself. There are numerous problems with the subdivision because the government rushed construction in order to get the lots on the market. Why did they rush? Because they found themselves in a position where there weren’t lots available for purchase when you went in and tried to buy them. It was crisis management.

The results so far: The city is still refusing to take ownership of the project until several problems are fixed, a major lawsuit with a contractor is still out, and several disputes between the government and that contractor are still unresolved. That is not a record to be proud of, and it is a result of poor planning.

With regard to the dispute with the contractor — and it is not before the courts, so the minister is free to answer it — the contractor believes that he is still owed $1.2 million. Is the minister refusing to discuss this matter with the contractor? How does the minister intend to resolve this situation?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: I’m not sure where to begin. First off, Whistle Bend is an example of our partnership between the City of Whitehorse and the Government of Yukon. It is a partnership that was made possible through the development and creation of the land development protocol agreement, which certainly points out the responsibility of land planning, subdivision and consultation all through the City of Whitehorse, at which time the Yukon government then proceeds with development.

Mr. Speaker, we are upholding our end of the bargain, and we certainly are working toward making land available within the City of Whitehorse.

The City of Whitehorse and Community Services have a long history of working cooperatively and working through issues that arise when it comes to construction, particularly turnover and operation of all our municipal infrastructure.

By the way, I will just again remind the member opposite that this is, in fact, the largest subdivision ever to be provided through the Government of Yukon and the City of Whitehorse.

Mr. Speaker, there is no reason to expect that the Whistle Bend subdivision is going to be anything other than like previous projects when it comes to jointly resolving those issues that come up.