Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mining-Fueled Housing Bubble Inflating In Whitehorse, Yukon; Average Home Prices Have Increased By 102 Percent To $378,900 Since 2004

Whitehorse, Yukon
The CBC reports that there is a housing bubble inflating in the capital of Yukon Territory, Whitehorse. The average price of a home has increased by 102 percent since 2004, from $187,900 then to $378,900 today. The increase since 2009 alone is 14.7 percent. Gary Brown, an information officer with the territorial statistics bureau, does not expect the demand for housing to ease anytime soon.

Fueling the increased demand for housing are two new Yukon mines expected to open soon, Alexco Resources' Bellekeno silver mine near Keno City and Yukon Zinc Corp.'s Wolverine mine south of Ross River, in addition to numerous mining exploration projects already underway across much of Yukon Territory. As a matter of fact, mineral exploration spending in the Yukon in 2009 has more than doubled initial forecasts by territorial government researchers, much of the jump linked to a gold-staking rush at Underworld Resources' White Gold property, located 90 kilometres south of Dawson City.

How hard is it to find affordable housing in Whitehorse? Back in February 2010, local real estate agents said there were fewer than 10 mid-priced homes in the Whitehorse market, and some agents reported having more than 10 families waiting for homes to open up in that price bracket. They defined "mid-priced" as being in the $200,000 to $400,000 range.

But the mining surge is not the only factor; bureaucracy and "NIMBY" are also players. The Yukon Real Estate Association has been lobbying the city for four years to free up new residential lots, but Mayor Bev Buckway said necessary but often lengthy procedures such as land lotteries and public consultations have made it difficult to make land available for development. Knee-jerk opposition to nearly every land-development initiative pops up. Although the next new residential subdivisions are slated to open for development at least three years from now, overall home prices will keep rising in the meantime. How high can they go? In Fort McMurray, Alberta, located amidst the booming Alberta oilsands center, the average house is $700,000 to $800,000.

There's a lesson in this for those of us who live in Anchorage. While it's prudent to promote more vertical housing to maximize efficient use of existing land, we must also consider opening up some of our excessive parkland for development. In addition, the construction of the Knik Arm Bridge will facilitate opening up Point MacKenzie for residential development, alleviating the pressure on existing Anchorage land. With the departure of New Urbanist radicals like Janice Shamberg and Sheila Selkregg from the Anchorage Assembly, that body is now less hostile to development. Former Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Coffey has warned us of serious flaws in the Anchorage Title 21 land use code rewrite, which, if adopted, could cause us to replicate some of the same problems experienced by Whitehorse.

As usual, the comments sections to the CBC stories provide more input. From the February 2010 CBC story comes the following pertinent comments (after the jump):

Thunderbuck Posted 2010/02/04 at 4:50 PM ET:
The whole point of this piece is that there's a very good reason why there's no affordable housing in Whitehorse: it's because there's a shortage of mid-priced houses. If there were a reasonable supply of lots here, a typical house price would probably be in the high $200k range, but that market now has to move "down" to mobile homes and condos, raising that demand and hence their prices, too.

Why is this? Because it's EXTREMELY difficult to get a new neighborhood underway. When something new is proposed, there's an immidiate NIMBY reaction along the lines of "I snowmobile there!" "I cross-country ski there!" or "animals migrate there".

Now, mind you, environmental impacts of any new development need to be properly assessed, but the fact is that there is a huge social impact from the development model we're following. 1) We're more car-dependent, because with the single-family-low-density planning model we're following, our neighborhoods are too sparse for buses to serve effectively. Too bad not everyone can afford a car. 2) Housing for the poor becomes harder to find, because higher-income groups get bumped down the housing ladder, and the poor find they're competing for housing with workers who might normally be buying, but can't afford to in the current market.

Thunderbuck Posted 2010/02/03 at 7:58 PM ET:
We've had a market for about 100 new houses a year for several years now. The trouble is, there have been almost no new lots to build on.

There were a couple dozen new lots released last year (mostly on the old arena site in Porter Creek). All snapped up. There are a few new lots in Takhini North this year, and the new ones near Arkell are coming on the market. Still nowhere NEAR enough to satisfy demand.

People wonder what's going on in Whitehorse? There's record amounts being spent on mineral exploration in the Yukon. Much of it winds up here in Whitehorse, with expediters, shipping companies, and the airlines. When the new mines in development actually start PRODUCING, there will be even more pressure to build.

We are literally hundreds of lots behind demand.

And from the November 2010 story:

Groucho dNorth Posted 2010/11/29 at 7:13 PM ET
We live in a supply and demand marketplace; for too long the Yukon economy was shrinking and there were plenty of homes available for sale, over the past eight or so years its turned around and available land has been sold with no new developments being made, we have been caught flat-footed. More available land and private development would help the situation immensely, but for some reason government is reluctant to open the sector up - I wonder what they are afraid of? Land claims is completed - let’s get growing.

Josey Wales Posted 2010/11/30 at 12:11 AM ET
And the land scam continues.....The windbags in the government certainly themselves have scads of rental units...houses to flip ect. I would love to research whom owns what...whom in charge of freeing up lands owns what...to see just how epic the conflict of interests are.

Funny thing is with folks whom do contribute to society with those pesky jobs...house loans...kids in school trying to themselves have a future here...and the Liberal & NDP types are tripping over themselves to establish a homeless shelter?

Is homeless the new PC word for drunk?...pariah maybe?

lets call it what it is...a drain on a system...a over taxing of the 600 micron safety net we have here in the Yukon. Yes some folks are indeed in need of help, mental help in fact...real issues that require real solutions. But the vast majority of those "homeless" here in town? Mere piss-tanks whom desire us to fund their life choices.

So NO I will not support tax money going to build a nice warm place to pass out....a neighbor hood for unwed moms & the litters of kids (many..not all) that are up & comers to further the burden on our system.

In the last few years hundreds of millions of dollars have been/will be spent building..."affordable" housing North of 60? Anyone out there know of a regular person that scored a home? I sure don't...we built houses for our elitist everywhere though. Burwash...Eastern Arctic...central Arctic...you name it a community near you received housing!

whilst not always "free" The log homes in Burwash were built...and sold for 25 cents on the dollar for whomever was liked by council. I helped build them...set them up & was disgusted with the entitlement attitudes experienced...told the boss... I refuse to set another freebie house up whilst struggling myself as a renter.

Josey Wales seems to identify a similar problem we have here in Anchorage -- homeless pukes lolligagging, and deadbeats coming up from the Lower 48 to suck down PFD checks and Denali Kid Care.



  2. I can only hope in regards to Point Mackenzie that folks who are fearful of anybody else making money, can look beyond their jealousy and see that opening up Pt. Mac and allowing infrastructure across the "arm" is going to help us all. Because some make some bucks, does not make the project a bad one.