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Rents going up, vacancies down

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 30/02) - People with low incomes are the hardest hit by Yellowknife's housing crunch.

Subsidized housing units are completely full, and have long waiting lists and very low turnover rates.

Aven Court rents its 24 apartment units to seniors for 25 per cent of their annual income. It is completely full and has eight people on a waiting list. Open apartments are given according to need, but the prospects of getting in are still slim -- most residents stay for years and the turnover rate is very slow.

The Yellowknife Housing Authority has 285 units, which house about 970 people. All its units are full, and the waiting list holds 125 people. Ten to 20 are in serious need of accommodation.

In the past, the annual turnover rate was 40 per cent, or about five to 10 families a month. In December, not a single unit opened up. That was the first time in 12 years that has happened, according to Yellowknife Housing Corp. CEO Jim White.

An additional 17 units scheduled to open in the spring are already mostly filled, and developers are going where the money is, which isn't subsidized housing. Unless the government steps in with money, it's unlikely that any more low-income housing will appear anytime soon.

"It's not an easy situation. It just isn't," he said, adding that people on the waiting list are living with family and friends, in some cases stuffing 10 people into two-bedroom apartments. "The future's bright for Yellowknife, but it's not bright in the social system," he said.