Opening Statement to News Conference—Yukon Housing

2022 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Yukon Legislative Assembly—Yukon HousingOpening Statement to News Conference

Andrew Hayes, Deputy Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada—25 May 2022

Good afternoon. I am pleased to be in Whitehorse today to discuss our report on Yukon housing, which we provided to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly earlier today. I would like to respectfully acknowledge all Yukon First Nations and acknowledge that this news conference is taking place on the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.

In this audit, we wanted to know whether the Yukon Housing Corporation provided Yukoners who have the greatest housing needs with adequate, affordable, and suitable housing. We also wanted to know whether the Department of Health and Social Services supported Yukoners who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by facilitating their access to housing.

This is important because housing is a cornerstone of individual, family, and community wellness. Stable housing enables the growth of healthy, resilient citizens who can contribute to a thriving society, environment, and economy.

Overall, we found that little progress has been made by either the Yukon Housing Corporation or the Department of Health and Social Services to fix long-standing issues affecting housing programs and services. The corporation and the department did not provide adequate and affordable housing for Yukoners in greatest need, such as those who are homeless. The 2 organizations did not work together or with their housing partners to effectively manage housing for those who needed it most.

In our examination of the corporation’s activities, we found that Yukoners in need faced barriers when they tried to access social housing. These barriers related to both the design and the delivery of social housing. For example, the corporation’s process does not differentiate between applicants who could live independently and those who need additional supports. Furthermore, the corporation has not updated its list of priority groups since 2007 to reflect Yukon society.

We also found that between 2015 and 2021, the waiting list for eligible social housing applicants grew by 320%. We found that, as the demand for housing for vulnerable Yukoners continued to exceed supply, an average of 75 households receiving social assistance were staying in hotels each month between August 2019 and August 2021.

In 2014, the average wait time to access housing was a little over a year. By 2021, that number had increased to almost 17 months. In addition, it took almost twice as long to provide homes for individuals from priority groups—such as victims of violence—than from non-priority groups.

While the number of available social housing and rental units increased by 20% between 2014 and 2021, maintenance costs increased as housing units aged. The problem was compounded by deficient systems and practices that were used to identify and monitor the status of major repairs. This is a problem because the longer a repair is delayed, the higher the cost.

I would like to turn now to the Department of Health and Social Services. We found that the department worked to increase emergency shelter capacity and transitional and supportive housing units. However, the effectiveness of these efforts suffered because the department did not first assess what was needed, and it did not collect data to monitor progress and inform its decision making. The department last completed a needs analysis in 2017.

Transforming programs and services to deliver housing to vulnerable Yukoners requires the corporation and the department to work together and with their partners. This did not happen, and those with the greatest housing needs suffered the consequences. It is imperative that the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Department of Health and Social Services work together to overcome the gaps and barriers we noted in this audit to help vulnerable Yukoners find the adequate and affordable housing they need.

The corporation and the department have agreed with all of our recommendations.

This concludes my opening statement. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.