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Can housing crunch be helped?

Andrea Markey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 21/05) - Due to continued economic growth, housing needs and wants of Yellowknifers is the focus of a new study commissioned by the city.

Talking with major employers is a key part of the survey.

Housing is a major contributor to recruiting hassles, said Paul Euler, owner of Euler Associations, the company doing the study for the City of Yellowknife.

Among its objectives, Euler said the report will look at ways to make new housing more attractive and affordable for potential buyers, as well as identifying ways to strengthen the city's policies and procedures.

"People talk about sticker shock when they get off the airplane," he said.

The average price of homes sold in Yellowknife last year was $230,670, up 12 per cent from 2003.

High home prices are something employers like Diavik face when recruiting, said Tom Hoefer, manager of external and internal affairs at Diavik Diamond Mine. Hoefer met with Euler to discuss Diavik's ideas on housing.

"All of Canada is hot right now for trades people," Hoefer said. "Housing is a major hurdle for people to decide to relocate."

Companies can only do so much to make an employment offer attractive for a would-be hire, he said.

"It is up to the city to sell itself as a good place to raise a family," he said, adding "quite a number" of Diavik employees have relocated to Hay River and Fort Smith due to a lower cost of living and efforts of the towns to attract them.

An underground feasibility study is underway at Diavik, but preliminary numbers show an increase of 300 workers by 2007/2008, he said.

The company is looking at options including interest-free loans and paying a portion of housing cost to help make Northern living attractive to potential employees, he said.

"Home ownership is an important part of building community," Euler said.

"Yellowknife has a lower home ownership rate than in the south in part because people tend to stay less time."

Euler wants to talk with people who have recently purchased a home or who are looking to buy in the near future, as well as anyone concerned with housing from a policy and advocacy role.

The city's website also has a form for people wishing to participate in the study.