North

Town of Faro assumes ownership of abandoned, decaying homes

37 properties in the former mining town, many of them multi-unit, have sat empty and deteroriating for 20 years. Now the Yukon government has agreed to help form a 'community development team' to tackle the problem, and revitalize the face of Faro.

Former mining town can now decide whether to tear down disused buildings, or fix them up

There are a total of 37 abandoned properties in Faro, with 170 individual housing units. They've been empty since the town's massive lead-zinc mine closed nearly 20 years ago. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Faro is nestled in the breathtaking beauty of Yukon's Pelly Valley, but for the last 20 years the defining feature of the former mining town has been the depressing sight of dozens of neglected and decaying buildings.

They were the former homes of people who worked at the town's massive lead-zinc mine, which closed in the late 1990s.

Since then they've sat empty, with broken windows and sagging doors, while the Town of Faro watched helplessly — it didn't own the properties, so couldn't make decisions about what to do with them. 

Now, though, the town has acquired title to the 37 properties, through the Tax Lien Act. There are 170 dwelling units in total, given that many of the properties are row houses and apartment blocks.

Ian Dunlop, the town's chief administrative officer, hopes to come up with a 'made in Faro' solution to dealing with the decrepit properties. (Submitted by Ian Dunlop)

Chief administrative officer Ian Dunlop said now the town is free to either tear the buildings down or put them on the market to be renovated.

The new Liberal government in Yukon has agreed to form a task force to tackle the issue.

"It [the team] will provide us with some expertise, so we'll be able to tap into the various departments of the Yukon government, and find out for example where there might be some sources of funding that will help us do this," Dunlop said.

"The scale of what we're dealing with here is unique to Faro, so it seems that we need to come up with a 'made in Faro' solution to how we're going to proceed."

Fully-serviced lots

Dunlop said the "community development team" will consist of staff from the town, as well as some elected councillors.

It will be coordinated by Yukon's department of community service, with advisors from that department and the Yukon Housing Corporation.

Over the winter, a 'community development team' will determine which properties are worth salvaging, and which aren't. (Ian Dunlop)

Dunlop said over the winter, the team will assess which properties are worth salvaging, and which aren't. He said demolishing some of the buildings will leave the town with a fresh stock of fully-serviced vacant lots.

"Some of the lots are a fairly generous size, so if you were to take a property that had a four-plex or six-plex on it, and put a nice single family home with a detached garage, you can have all the amenities you want, right in the middle of town."

Dunlop added that renovating the properties that are deemed worth saving could be an ideal training opportunity for tradespeople. 

"We'll be bringing in some expertise from Yukon Housing, from [the] abandoned mines [branch], even Yukon College has expressed interest in being involved in that team, to see if there's opportunities for trades training, for example."

He estimates that probably half of the units must be demolished. 

Dunlop said the town is considering setting up a development corporation to handle the sale of the remaining properties.

The community development team is expected to meet later this month.

The Town of Faro is nestled in the Pelly Valley, about a 4-hour drive from Whitehorse. (Ian Dunlop)

About the Author

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.