Front Street seniors’ residence geared towards accessibility

The Yukon Housing Corporation has officially opened its newest seniors' residence, at Front Street and Ogilvie Street in Whitehorse.

The Yukon Housing Corporation has officially opened its newest seniors’ residence, at Front Street and Ogilvie Street in Whitehorse.

Premier Darrell Pasloski and Stacey Hassard, the minister responsible for the housing corporation, were on hand at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday.

“As a government, we are committed to a better quality of life for elders, and ensuring that more housing options are available to those who are most in need, such as seniors and persons with disabilities,” Pasloski said.

Hassard said the downtown location is ideal for a seniors’ residence because of “the proximity to the downtown core, for easy access to shopping and medical services, the wonderful library just across the street … (and) the flat terrain of the downtown area, which is suited for ease of walking and scooter or wheelchair use.”

The residence has 48 one-bedroom units for seniors who are living independently. Rent will be geared to income, meaning tenants will pay 25 per cent of their gross income in rent. Matt King, Yukon Housing’s vice-president of operations, said the average income of Yukon Housing tenants is about $23,500.

King said there are currently about 65 seniors on the wait list for social housing. He said over 60 people from the list have already visited the new apartments, and 38 have decided to move in. The first two people are moving in today.

“We are pretty confident it’ll be fully allocated within the next month,” he said.

This is the third Yukon Housing seniors’ residence to open in less than two years. The 34-unit Alexander Street residence opened in November 2014, and a six-unit residence in Mayo was unveiled last August.

All 48 units of the new residence have a bedroom, a bathroom and an open living area that includes a kitchen with a dishwasher, stovetop and oven. Most of the rooms have balconies, and all have large windows, some overlooking the Yukon River and others facing Shipyards Park.

All of the units have accessible features, including grab bars on either side of the toilet and right-angle, lever-type door handles that can be opened with a closed fist. The building also has smooth-surface flooring for wheelchairs and electrical outlets for recharging motorized scooters.

Ten of the units are barrier-free, for residents who use wheelchairs. They feature a roll-in shower and a sink and countertop unit that can be raised and lowered. All of the light switches and electrical outlets have been placed at an appropriate height for someone in a wheelchair, and the stovetop has controls at the front of the appliance, so residents don’t have to reach across hot elements to work the dials.

“Everything that was done like this was done on purpose. There were no accidents,” said Rick Goodfellow, executive director of Challenge-Disability Resource Group, who worked with Yukon Housing’s accessibility advisory committee to make design recommendations for the new residence. “This is now a standard. The standard has been set by Yukon Housing that this is the way that you design things.”

Goodfellow said most Yukon homes are not accessible, which makes it difficult for people to age in place if they lose mobility. He said the new residence offers a solution.

“Somebody can move in here and if they have a stroke, if their situation deteriorates for any reason whatsoever, guess what? They don’t have to move. They can still stay here.”

The Front Street residence was also built with a number of energy-efficient features, including triple-paned, argon-filled windows and R40 and R60 insulation in the exterior walls and ceiling, respectively. It also has electric heating.

“In basic terms, this is a snug, energy-efficient, non-polluting building,” Hassard said.

The residence was built by Whitehorse-based NGC Builders in a little over a year. Doug Gilday, the company’s co-owner, said the biggest challenge with this kind of project is getting everything done on time. NGC Builders also built the Alexander Street seniors’ residence.

“When we start, there is no design. It starts with a statement of requirements, which is just a prescription for what the building should look like,” he said. “And then from that you have to do a lot of consultation and … create the design in a pretty short time frame in order to commence construction. That’s where the challenges lie.”

The residence cost $12.1 million to build. The Yukon government had originally budgeted $16 million for the project.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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