Green Alternative to Liberal Housing Proposal

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Kristina Calhoun is a guest writer and leader of the Yukon Green Party. This letter to the editor was published in the Whitehorse Star August 31, 2011

Re: – Yukon Liberals’ proposed financial support for homeowners and renters – The Green Alternative.

We fail to see how doubling homeowner grants or providing a new tax credit for eligible renters will in any way, over the short or long term, alleviate the lack of affordable housing units in Yukon. Do most of us fortunate enough to own homes or who can afford decent rental accommodations really need to be subsidized in this fashion and at whose expense?

These proposals will no doubt garner votes. But neither the votes gained nor the tax dollars expended will directly produce new entry level home owner housing or new rental accommodations. Indeed, such gifts, in our opinion, are more likely to encourage owners and renters to remain in their current residences rather than “freeing up” these units for sale or rent at affordable prices.

What the Yukon Green Party would support is a program designed to assist, currently renting, first time home buyers (who are Yukon residents) in the purchase of new reasonably priced, entry level, energy efficient housing units. The assistance could be in the form of secured (second mortgage) low interest Yukon Government loans to be combined with conventional bank mortgages. The annual interest payable on the YG loan portion over a set period of years would be forgiven provided the first time buyer lived full time in the dwelling. Should the purchaser sell the unit (or rent it) any time during the set period, then all or some of the interest to be forgiven would be recovered. One could consider this program as being akin to an old fashioned Homestead Act – HOMESTEAD HOUSING MORTGAGES (HHM). Such a program should not be structured as a hand-out but as a hand-up.

The recent housing development proposal for entry level starter homes at the former McKenzie RV Park appears to be a good fit for this HHM program. To tap a broader base for potential building sites, Yukon wide, the program, with First Nations’ participation, could also be expanded to include long term lease lot holdings.

The HHM program is not a quick fix as it will not directly produce additional rental units. However, as renters use the program to purchase and move into their own starter homes more vacated rental units will become available to the market.

We should be able to establish and administer this Homestead Housing Mortgaging concept through enhancement and tweaking of Yukon Housing Corporation’s existing programs or maybe by adding a new one. And possibly the funding could be drawn from the $16M -$17M transferred from Canada to Yukon for the provision of housing that the Yukon Party has yet to expend. There are details to be worked out and of course the devil is in the details. But don’t tell me it can’t be done if we try hard enough!

We support a suggestion that Dave Sloan has been put forward on Facebook that each party commit to a conference that would include business, NGO’s and government together with outside experts with the aim of developing a comprehensive housing plan as a solution to the problem. We believe we also need to include the front-line workers in the various organizations that deal with those who are in need of the affordable housing. Together we can find more solutions to the problem.

Kristina Calhoun,
Leader, Yukon Green Party

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