Project 3h

Housing as a Dimension of Poverty in the Yukon

Project Completed
Research Team
Dr. Frances Abele, School of Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University

Nick Falvo, PhD Candidate, School of Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University ;  

Bill Thomas, Co-chair, Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition
May 24, 2012  Nick Falvo released a (peer-reviewed) policy report on poverty in Yukon.

The report is entitled Poverty Amongst Plenty:  Waiting for the Yukon Government to Adopt a Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Executive Summary

Plain Language Summary

Powerpoint presentation

Key report findings include the following:

  • It is expensive for governments to ignore poverty, due largely to lost productivities and higher health care costs.
  • Social assistance recipients throughout Canada have a high rate of “food insecurity,” but this is especially prevalent in Yukon, where the cost of living is higher than most other Canadian jurisdictions.  The report further notes that poor nutrition can predispose individuals to various health problems, including hypertension, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
  • Lone-parent households in Yukon have an especially difficult time making ends meet; their household budgets are stretched and they’re twice as likely to live in overcrowded housing than the rest of Yukon’s households.
  • The average house price in Whitehorse has increased by 80% in the past six years (even after adjusting for inflation).
  • As of March 2012, the rental vacancy rate in Whitehorse was 1.3%. This means it is very difficult for low-income households to find a unit to rent.
  • Yukon is one of the only Canadian jurisdictions that fully ‘claws back’ the National Child Benefit Supplement from social assistance recipients.  In effect, this means that a household on social assistance in Yukon is denied up to $2,200 per year for one child; the Yukon Government, in effect, denies them of this money, presumably in an effort to make gainful employment seem more attractive.
  • Between 2001 and 2008, the number of people in Yukon earning more than $250,000 annually more than quadrupled.
  • Between 2008 and 2010, while the Canadian economy as a whole grew by just 1%, Yukon’s economy grew by 11%.
  • Yukon, along with Alberta, has no public debt.
The full report, summary reports and media coverage are available at:  or click on the links below.

Summary Report of February 2012

Background  The research in question is seeking to do three things.  First, it will provide a general overview of poverty in Yukon.  Second, it will discuss steps taken towards the creation of a Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Strategy in Yukon. Third, it will eventually make policy recommendations with the goal of reducing poverty and promoting social inclusion in Yukon.  The report will not provide a comprehensive assessment of the federal government’s poverty-alleviating strategies.   Nor will it directly assess initiatives undertaken by First Nations governments in Yukon.  

This analysis is being undertaken as part of the Social Economy Research Network of Northern Canada, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  It is also being done in partnership with the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.  The research is being supervised by Dr. Frances Abele, and undertaken by Nick Falvo (a senior doctoral candidate in Public Policy at Carleton University).

Many Canadian jurisdictions have developed poverty reductions strategies over the past decade.  Others have indicated that they will work to develop one.  As of late-February 2012, seven jurisdictions (including Nunavut) had begun to implement a comprehensive, poverty reduction strategy.  

Within the Yukon Government, steps were taken towards a Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Strategy as early as 2008.  Work towards a Strategy began in earnest in mid-2009, with the stated goal of releasing a Strategy in March 2011.  Both an Interdepartmental Steering Committee and a Community Advisory Committee were struck that year.  Much of the work done towards the Strategy has been done by staff in the Yukon Government’s Office of Strategic and Social Initiatives.

Formal consultation workshops were held in April-June 2010 in 14 Yukon communities, namely:  Whitehorse, Carmacks, Faro, Ross River, Pelly Crossing, Mayo, Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Haines Junction, Watson Lake, Teslin, Carcross, Old Crow and Dawson City.  
A Strategy has yet to be released.

February 2012 Research: Mr. Falvo flew to Whitehorse on February 18th.  The next day, a research colleague (Mr. Luigi Zanasi) drove them to Ross River to hold discussions with members of the local council, and ask questions to members of Council about poverty and affordable housing.  Mr. Falvo also had discussions with local officials in charge of building housing, as well as discussions with community health workers.  Questions were asked about the administration of housing, the administration of social assistance, pre- and post-natal programming, a diabetes-prevention program, and the local green house.  Introductions to all of the above individuals were made by Mr. Zanasi, who has worked as an economic consultant in Ross River for many years.  On February 21, Mr. Zanasi and Mr. Falvo returned to Whitehorse. During the February 22-26 period, Mr. Falvo then met with various individuals in Whitehorse with expertise in poverty, both to discuss the research and receive feedback on an early draft of the report.  Conversations took place with an expert on tuberculosis, two experts on health promotion, members of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, a senior official with the Whitehorse homelessness shelter and two private consultants.  

The experience of getting to know Ross River and some of its local leaders, along with discussions in Whitehorse with issue experts, were extremely helpful with the research project.  Next steps include a March 2012 trip to Whitehorse (for more key informant interviews), a peer review process being coordinated by the Canadian Homelessness Research Networks, and an anticipated late-May 2012 public launch of the final report, which will be made available as an open source document free to all and uploaded to at least one web site.  A plain-language summary will also be written and made available at the same web site.

Research Proposal


The purpose of the research project is twofold. First, it seeks to outline the Government of the Yukon's poverty reduction strategy, along with the role played by civil society in both the genesis of the strategy, the strategy's development and the strategy's implementation. Special attention will be paid to the role played the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, its Housing Task Force, its Action Plan, and its role on the Government of the Yukon's Community Advisory Committee for the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy. The project will outline what has happened, including both what has been effective and what have been the shortcomings of the Yukon government's strategy. It will pay special attention to the housing component of the strategy, as this is not currently the subject of research in Yukon and as access to housing is an important anti-poverty measure, and it will consider a broad array of literature on housing, including the Mental Health Commission of Canada's mapping study on housing needs across Canada, as well as the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness Community Plan. Second, it will provide a historical overview of government-assisted housing in the Yukon, including a consideration of how different Aboriginal groups have viewed housing. This will include a consideration of First Nations Grey Mountain housing. Using a literature review (including policy documents), key informant interviews, and statistical data, the researchers will prepare both a report on the housing component of the Government of the Yukon's Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy, and a historical paper on government-assisted housing in the Yukon. In addition, the researcher's will make conference presentations as is appropriate for dissemination of the results. At least one journal article will also be prepared, directed towards a Canadian public policy or northern research journal.

Project Description

Across Canada, more than three-quarters of households in core need are in core need exclusively because they do not meet the affordability standard (CMHC, 2010: 66), and it is against this backdrop that we propose the present research project looking at the role of affordable housing in the Yukon's poverty reduction strategy, which is being launched in the spring of 2011.

The research project will identify the key social economy institutions that are relevant to poverty and affordable housing in the Yukon. It will explore how these organizations interact with public policies and the changing needs of those living in poverty and lacking affordable housing. It will document the factors contributing to a lack of affordable housing in the Yukon, with attention to the interaction between housing in Whitehorse and the other communities of the Yukon and the particular problems faced by Aboriginal persons. As this project is intended to be a companion study to a concurrent study of the impact of colonialism and the inter-generational transmission of harm on Northerners, the project proposed here will focus on the policies, programs, laws and regulations - as well as the economic factors - that create and sustain poverty in inadequate housing in the Yukon.


The project will use a number of lines of evidence to develop a full analysis of the policy environment that affects poverty and housing in the Yukon.

Literature Review: There is a substantial body of work on poverty and housing in the Yukon, both historical and present-day. That said, no studies exist that address the specific goals of this project. The secondary literature review will be used to develop a chronology of major events in the Yukon's housing provision since the 1930s, to develop an initial understanding of key policy issues today, and to sketch the contemporary legislative and policy framework.

Initial Key Informant Interviews: Interviews telephone when appropriate, and in-person) will be conducted with members of civil society groups, community workers, housing providers and public servants to develop a preliminary understanding of key themes relating to affordable housing and poverty in the Yukon.

Statistical analysis: Data from the 2010 Whitehorse Housing Adequacy Study (November 2010) and dimensions of Social Inclusion and Exclusion In Yukon (December 2010) will be used to provide contextual information about poverty and housing

Targeted investigation: The initial stages of research outlined above are expected to yield a set of "scenarios" or situations that can be seen to reproduce inadequate housing as a social condition. Hypothetically, these may be fairly simple ( example: "There is a shortage of low income housing in Whitehorse") or they may be more complex ( example: "Inadequate housing among women is an indirect and unintended consequence of changes to the control of housing in predominantly Aboriginal communities following the implementation of a modern Treaty."); In the final stage of the project, targeted investigations will be undertaken to validate the scenarios and to develop remedies.

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