The former Coast High Country Inn, seen on Nov. 2, 2022, could turn into temporary housing before it gets converted into a social housing project. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Former Whitehorse hotel could convert into temporary housing for winter

Safe at Home Society will eventually turn former Coast High Country Inn into social housing

A former hotel could become a temporary place of refuge for people experiencing homelessness throughout the winter before it gets overhauled into permanent social housing.

In January, the Safe at Home Society bought the former Coast High Country Inn with the intention of converting it into 55 affordable housing units.

But getting the building up to code means that “unforeseen obstacles” will impact the cost and timeline for completing that housing project, according to an Oct. 28 press release issued by Safe at Home Society.

The building will serve another purpose until construction begins.

“Our organization is starkly aware of the urgent housing needs of people in the community, and so we are working to utilize the former hotel as temporary housing throughout the winter months,” the society’s executive director Kate Mechan said in the release.

The release notes Safe at Home Society anticipates getting a temporary occupancy permit in November.

The release points out a bright side of the required redesign is the possibility of creating 12 more units, bringing the total number of units up to 67.

According to the release, the society is working with “all current and future funding partners” to make up the cost difference of the project.

Safe at Home Society is aiming to begin construction on the housing project in spring 2023.

Last week, the Yukon Legislative Assembly heard the Yukon Party question the housing project’s viability, budget and delay.

In a Jan. 31 joint release, the federal and territorial governments previously indicated the affordable housing project was expected to be completed in fall 2022.

The housing project is being paid for by the federal government’s Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the territorial government’s Yukon Housing Corporation.

The joint release states the project will get $10 million through the northern portion of the national housing co-investment fund and $5 million under the expanded rapid housing initiative for a total of $15 million in federal money for renovating and refreshing the former inn.

“To date, we put $1.02 million toward this project,” Ranj Pillai, the territorial minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, said Oct. 27 in the legislature.

A spokesperson for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the corporation is working with partners in Whitehorse and the Yukon to help this project meet the desired outcomes.

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com