Doug Rutherford

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Rent is… how much??

April 2012
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Our ongoing issues with the neighbour across the street finally came to an end last fall when he moved from Whitehorse to Carmacks. Collectively, most of us on the street breathed a collective sigh of relief when he left.

Then, in January, we got a new neighbour. Shortly after he moved in, I met him while we were both cleaning out the driveways. We had a chat for about half an hour. He moved to Whitehorse in the beginning of January when he transferred here for work. His family was coming shortly and he needed a place on relatively short notice. When I came back into the house, Clara asked, “What is he like?” The only response I could come up was that thing we came up with when we were young and brought home a stray animal: “I’m keeping him!”

Sadly, I’m not keeping him. He came over yesterday to tell us he was moving out that day. He found another place, renting a basement in Riverdale. Although he said he really liked the neighbourhood and the people on the street, the place he was renting was inadequate and far too expensive. He figured that the new place in the winter would cost about $1,000 per month less by the time he added the cost of heating and lights. While the place would be smaller, the cost of the trailer across the street was far too high.

What was he renting? First, the trailer was quite run-down and the wear and tear of having two junk dealers and a crack house was pretty extensive. For example, the owner remarked a few years ago that she cleaned more than 1,000 needles from the house after the crack dealers left and they had the disturbing habit of not walking as far as the washroom when there was a perfectly good floor to use for that purpose. The place is poorly insulated, as most 40-year-old trailers are. However, the house does have a large shop attached to the trailer and a heated basement. These might offer some additional benefits; however, they are not part of the rental and cannot be used. Further, the smell of dog or cat urine in parts of the house is not conducive to either happiness or health. For these stunning accommodations, the rent is $1,400 plus heat and lights a month. Oh, by the way, part of your heating costs go to heating the basement you’re not allowed to use.

How, you ask, can you get away with such an exorbitant rent for such conditions? The answer is seen in the vacancy rate, which was 1.3% in Whitehorse in March of this year (note that houses being rented are not included in the vacancy rate calculations). There is so little housing available that costs are quite high for some rather poor levels of accommodations. The average rent for a 3+ bedroom apartment in a small apartment building is $1,475 per month, although the vacancy rate in March for such accommodations was 0%. In short, regardless of how trashy your rental unit is, you will not only find someone who will rent it but you can also charge a king’s ransom for it.

Something has to be done with the shortage of housing in Whitehorse. Until the territorial government and the city get their acts together, and both have a long way to go in achieving that status, the cost of housing will remain high, even for slums…



  1. Joe says:

    Regina’s vacancy rate is usually less than 1%. And rental rates/costs are probably comparable to those up your way.

    • Our problem is artificial though. The territorial government was supposed to keep a 2-year supply of lots available and haven’t, as well as sitting on federal money for low income housing for 3 years. And, the city needs to make their minimum lot and house sizes smaller to allow for attainable housing.

  2. nitadances says:

    I’m speachless. Wow.

  3. The housing crisis is an unfortunate by-product of our economic boom. We led the nation in population growth in the last census. The government is proceeding with some innovative solutions like this Lot 262 offering ( ) as well as additional second-stage housing investments. ( )

    • Unfortunately, the crisis started several years ago, late 2007, and yet the response seems to be coming quite late. It is nice to see something coming down the pipe, although you will find that the funding for Kaushee’s is the second announcement of more or less the same funding promised last year. Then, there was the federal funding for low income housing, about $17.5 million, that sat in the bank account for about three years. And, given the housing crisis, it is time the governments involved get to work to solve it.

  4. joe schmoe says:

    Doug, I have two 3 bedroom DPW duplexes in Takhini West, three floors including a full concrete basement, laundry, one bathroom, and a decent sized yard. They are rented for 1275, and 1375 per month plus utilities. I pay the water, sewer, taxes and garbage pick up. I have two one bedroom places downtown, the front and back of a house, each with its own porch and yard area, for 650 and 675 plus utilities. Every time I read about ‘greedy landlords’ I feel like I must be a fool! My guess is that my renters would move out pretty fast if they found places cheaper and nicer, yet I feel a sense of obligation toward them even though I do figure I could get more money for rent. I just want to point out that there are a lot of landlords out there who are fair to the tenants, even though for the moment the power is in the hands of the landlords. – Susie Rogan

  5. Joe says:

    The problem here is somewhat artificial too. In the midst of a small population boom, city council allowed a large number of rentals to be converted to condos and allowed a number of properties with lower rents/low income tenants to be demolished – One article I saw listed a net loss of almost 200 rentals in 2011. This is also a city with a high percentage of low income families plus a medium sized university, a technical/trades college, and several First Nations/Metis post secondary institutions that provide a pool of transient renters.
    The quality of rental properties is dropping as well because tenants are afraid to complain – even about code violations – because they can’t find anywhere else to go.

  6. Ours is artificial because the territorial government controls the land being issued for new developments and issues it through the city. When their lot inventory fell behind, the number of available lots dropped well below demand. In 2005, just before the housing crunch started, there were 216 building permits issued in Whitehorse for new construction. In 2010, that number fell to 94. With the shortage comes a huge increase in cost per house. In 2005, the average price of a house in Whitehorse was ~$215K, while last quarter, it had risen to ~$477K.

  7. yukonchris says:

    I hate to say this, but if we looked, I am sure we would find, somewhere, at the heart of it all, the word “greed.”

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