'Everything was taken': One family's struggle to find a place to rent in Whitehorse

Carlos Astorquiza had always wanted to live in the Yukon. Last February, he came to start a new job, excited to live out a Yukon adventure. Turns out that adventure was finding a place for him, his wife and daughter to live.

Carlos Astorquiza says if he knew how hard it was to find a place, he and his family wouldn’t have come

Carlos Astorquiza struggled to find a place to rent for himself and his family earlier this year. He eventually found a one-bedroom basement apartment downtown for $1,950/month, and decided to take a second job to make it work. (Submitted by Carlos Astorquiza)

It hasn't turned out to be quite the Yukon adventure Carlos Astorquiza had been hoping for.

The 53-year-old financial advisor who has a masters in business administration had always wanted to see the Yukon.

Last February, he was offered several jobs in Halifax and one in the Yukon.

This was his chance, he figured.

"I got a job with the Department of Education. But they never told me how difficult it was to get somewhere to live in the Yukon," he said.

He arrived in Whitehorse having already bought tickets for his wife and their 20-year-old daughter, who has Down Syndrome, to join him later.

Then he started looking for a place.

"Everything was taken. Everything was very expensive," he said.

A hostile environment

Astorquiza went online and joined groups, looking for leads, asking for help, and telling his story.

He said most people wished him luck but he also received some hate messages.

"Why do you come to Whitehorse? People in Whitehorse don't have any place to live and you come, and you take their jobs, and whatever," he said, adding that if he had 100 responses, about four or five of them were hate messages.

About a week before his family was set to arrive, Astorquiza started getting very nervous.

"I was not sleeping at all. I didn't know where I was going to live," he said.

He thought at some point he might have to change his plans and not go through with the move.

He went to Yukon Housing to see if the organization could help him, but said he was told he had to be living in the territory for a year before they could offer any assistance.

He then went to the Safe at Home Society who told him they didn't have anything for him.

Eventually he found a place — for $1,950 a month.

A different kind of adventure

The apartment is a basement suite on Lowe Street, downtown.

"One bedroom, one kitchen, one living room and one bathroom ... And some people say that that is expensive," he said, adding he couldn't find anything under $1,800.

"I make, like, $2,800 and this place cost me [almost] $2,000. I'm going to have to restructure my finances in order to survive," he said.

"Had I known it was so hard to find a place to live in the Yukon, actually, I wouldn't have come," he said.

But, he said, he's grateful he did find a place, and that Safe at Home Society subsidized his first month's rent.

He's taken on a second job, as a tutor, and said he and his family are going to stay for the year, as they originally planned.

And while it's not the adventure he had hoped for, he said it's still an adventure.

"It is an adventure to live in a basement with two people and pay that much money," he said. "Yeah, it's still an adventure."

With files from George Maratos