Plans to convert the former Coast High Country Inn into a supportive housing development took another step forward at Whitehorse city council’s Dec. 13 meeting.
Members voted unanimously to have the mayor sign off on a request for the city’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) amount from the federal government to be assigned to the Yukon Housing Corporation (YHC).
“It’s a really good example of not one government, not one agency that is going to solve the problems of housing, affordable housing and housing for people that can’t afford it, but need it, and I think it’s an excellent opportunity for the City of Whitehorse to be involved in this project,” Mayor Laura Cabott said. “You know, we need to work with other levels of governments, we need to work with agencies, and sometimes we need to rely on them so I’m fully supportive of it.”
The project is being led by the Safe at Home Society and would see the former hotel renovated to provide 55 housing units.
In August, the previous city council voted to apply for the federal funding that aims to address urgent housing needs for vulnerable Canadians through rapid construction of affordable housing.
Whitehorse was identified as an eligible municipality for the funding with $5 million reserved for the city, subject to project approval.
Yukon Housing Corporation also stated its intent to support the project.
Northern Vision Development (NVD) is selling property for $10 million.
Safe at Home executive director Kate Mechan has previously described NVD as a “driving force” in the project.
It’s estimated $4 million to $5 million will be needed for renovations.
At the council meeting, city staff told council Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has confirmed the funding and that a council resolution was needed for the city to assign the funding to Yukon Housing. It was noted this would reduce the administrative burden of having the city deal with the funds.
“This would also pass funding conditions from CMHC to YHC, including reporting and ensuring the units remain as affordable housing,” the report reads.
At least 75 per cent of the suites will be reserved for Indigenous tenants and a minimum of 50 per cent for women.
A section of 16 studio apartments will also be developed for young adults aged 18 to 24.
A total of 27 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom apartments will make up the remainder of the units. On the ground floor a number of shared spaces are planned for residents, including a space for gatherings, programming and a healing space.
Mechan was on-hand to answer questions from council, informing members that a steering committee will be formed. Planning for safety in the building will get underway in the new year. The steering committee will also work with residents of the downtown area to address concerns.
She said that while that has been part of the plans for some time, Safe at Home wanted to be sure funding was in place before moving forward with those components.
Preliminary plans would see a secured floor for vulnerable women, Safe at Home moving its office to the building and have at least two staff working there at all times.
Council members were vocal in their support for the project that will add supportive living units to the city.
Renovations are planned to begin in January 2022 with the first residents expected to move in September 2022. A phased move-in for residents is planned.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org