Cold city. Hot market.

New construction has virtually stopped in Whitehorse, leading to a spike in house prices

A housing crunch is hitting Yukon, land of the great wide open. New construction has virtually stopped in Whitehorse, causing bidding wars in the territorial capital. The average price for a single-family home hit a record $455,000 this year—twice what it was six years ago, and on par with the price of an average home in Toronto.

The vast territory is, believe it or not, suffering a land shortage. The Yukon government has had trouble authorizing land for housing development; citizens, it seems, are fond of those wide open spaces and oppose new development. This, coupled with the fact that Canadians are migrating to Yukon in near-record numbers to take advantage of high-paying jobs in government and the mining industry, has made houses almost as sought-after as the gold southerners have come to unearth.

The housing problem has also affected the rental market. Vacancy is at one per cent—the lowest in years—because people who could normally afford to buy cannot find a house to purchase, and are forced to lease instead.

But change may be coming. The territorial government has managed to approve land for new development in Whitehorse, where 70 per cent of the population resides. Construction is set to begin on a new subdivision, Whistle Bend, with 3,500 new units, according to city planning and development manager Mike Gau. “We need to catch up and get ahead of it,” says Gau, “so we can get out of this artificial market.”

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