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…