Dawson City non-profit organization builds much-needed affordable housing units

Sheila Vittrekwa retired from the RCMP August 2018 and moved from Whitehorse back home to Fort McPherson, NWT.

Although it was nice to be around family she was used to having her own place to live.

“Although I had my mom I was just so used to living on my own for so many years,” she said.

“When I came here I knew it was home right away.”

Vittrekwa’s aunt, who lives in Dawson City, suggested she apply for a unit in a newly constructed eight-unit building downtown.

After months of waiting and thinking she wasn’t going to get it, she got the call and was offered a one-bedroom unit.

“I think I applied before Christmas and I wasn’t really counting on it,” she said.

“I made a trip to Whitehorse in April and while I was doing shopping I got a phone call from KDO and they asked me, they have a one-bedroom available if I’ll accept it and I said ‘Yes.’”

Vittrekwa’s apartment is in a new affordable housing project.

Originally the project was put out for public tender but it wasn’t profitable for developers.

So the Klondike Development Organization (KDO) stepped in and decided that because housing is a high priority in the community, it would take the project on with the help of local contractors.

The KDO is a local non-profit organization that is made up of the City of Dawson and local organizations including the chamber of commerce and the development corporation Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.

Dawson City is a small community located about 530 km north of Whitehorse.

It has close to 2,000 full-time residents with the population growing significantly in the summer months.

Housing is scarce with the average price of a home in the $450,000 to $600,000 range.

Renting a small room or apartment can cost up to $1,500 per month and affordable housing is needed.

The eight-unit building that Vittrekwa lives in has six one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units.

Jackie Olson is the president of KDO.

She said she’s happy to see the second building completed and full of tenants.

“We’re helping people who make Dawson their home get established,” she said.

“We’re hoping this is a temporary stay for them where they’re not doing the six-month shuffle that happens in Dawson and they can get themselves grounded and maybe purchase a house in the future.”

Anyone is eligible to apply for a unit however there is a waiting list where applicants get selected on the basis of need.

Vittrekwa has been living in her new apartment since June 1, and has already settled in.

“Its a nice home,” she said.

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