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The housing horizon

How it got so bad and how will it get better

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 07/01) - Real estate experts say relief is in sight for people looking for accommodations in Yellowknife, but this doesn't mean rent will get any cheaper.

"Unless you are a double-income earner here you are really going to have a tough time," Shane Clark, president of the Yellowknife Real Estate Board said.

The federal government recently announced a new program to help provinces and territories develop low-income housing.

On Nov. 30 the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the NWT agreed on an initial framework for funding the program.

The funding will subsidize the territorial government on its affordable housing initiative.

Outlines on the program specifics for jurisdictions should be available within the next two weeks.

Clark said the city is in the early stages of overall housing development to meet the high demand. A new apartment complex is being built near Rat Lake and subdivisions are slated for the Niven and the Kam Lake areas.

"But, if we are looking at the lower-end of the income scale we do not see a bright future," he added.

"This is probably the only city in Canada where it costs more to rent than to own a home."

Clark believes this is due to the market still playing catch-up from when people expected the economy to take a down-turn after the closing of Giant Mine, he said.

Residents seemed to flee the city and rent dropped by 15 to 20 per cent. Now, rental rates are back to where they were in the mid-90s.

Clark said part of the reason vacancy is so low right now is a government-subsidized, home-buying initiative created three years ago. The Minimum Down Assessment Payment Plan (MDAPP) saw home-buyers get a $10,000 subsidy for down-payments during that time if they qualified for a mortgage.

"It did clean up the market a fair amount," Clark said. "If we look at it now it would have evened out eventually."

Clark said at the time the program was launched there were about 300 homes available and about 30 buyers.

Now Clark reports there are about 30 homes on the market and 300 buyers and he is still getting calls for rental units every day.

"If we are looking at a population of 22,000 or 23,000 in the next years, we still have a lot of catching up to do.