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Yk homes affordable, survey says
City still needs to ensure housing is affordable for all of its residents, say councillors

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 11, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Yellowknife is one of only nine Canadian cities deemed to have affordable housing prices, according to an international survey of housing markets.

The city tied with Moncton, N.B., for 35th place out of 325 housing markets graded by the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Demographia is an urban development study group based in Belleville, Illinois.

The survey, which was released at the end of January, looks at housing markets in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States and assesses housing affordability using the median multiple - median house price divided by gross annual median household income.

According to the survey, Yellowknife's median house price for 2010 was $293,000, while the median household income was $121,000, giving the city a median multiple of 2.4.

In the survey, a median of three or less is considered affordable.

City councillor Amanda Mallon said although it's great the city is being recognized as being more affordable than nearly 300 other housing markets, it's important to remember that all of the city's residents don't make more than $100,000 a year.

"There's a lot of young families, single parents and extended families that are lacking affordable housing," she said.

"I feel there's a lot more work that we have to do as a city council, and also working with the developers and our residents to make sure our city is actually affordable for the people who live here.

"I think we should take studies like this with a grain of salt - recognize the good, but recognize that we've got a lot more work to be done."

She pointed to the Copper Sky development being built at the foot of Tin Can Hill as a sign the city is on the right track, but she said there is still a long way to go.

Last November, city council ordered administration to re-draft request for proposals for development at Phase VII of Niven Lake after deciding it did not place enough emphasis on affordability.

Coun. David Wind agreed that the city needs to continue to keep its affordability goal in mind.

He said the quick sale of the Copper Sky developments, which were priced between $200,000 and $330,000, is a good indication that there is a need for affordable housing in the city.

The first phase of the development, which consisted of 33 homes, sold out in two days, according to the website. The second phase, which went up for sale Feb. 3, had only one suite left on Wednesday.

Wind said although multi-family dwellings are selling well, the city also needs to build a variety of developments to meet the needs of all of its residents.

"We should remember that not everybody wants a smallish kind of multi-family housing complex," he said. "There is a range of housing needs in the city, and I think the city, as suppliers of land for residential development, should make sure we put land on the market that suits a range of development possibilities."

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said the city's goal of affordability comes into play with everything council does, and pointed to the proposed Con Mine community energy system as an example.

"It makes it more affordable to live here in the short term, but most importantly it makes it more affordable for our children and our grandchildren because it offsets the vagaries of the oil and gas industry by dealing with a renewable energy source."

Out of the other Canadian cities ranked as affordable, Yellowknife tied for fourth with Moncton, N.B., after Windsor, Ont., Thunder Bay, Ont., and Fredericton, N.B.

Also on the list were Charlottetown, Saint John, N.B., Saguenay, Que., and Trois-Rivieres, Que.

Across Canada, there were three seriously unaffordable housing markets and six severely unaffordable markets, including Vancouver, which placed third overall as severely unaffordable with a median multiple of 9.5.

"We're four times better than Vancouver," said Van Tighem with a laugh, "I mean, in general it's affordable to have a house here."

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