Group unveils seniors housing project

The Vimy Heritage Housing Society has announced details of its plans to build a supportive housing project for seniors in Whitehorse.

The Vimy Heritage Housing Society has announced details of its plans to build a supportive housing project for seniors in Whitehorse.

The non-profit organization, in partnership with the Yukon government and the City of Whitehorse, is working towards establishing a 75-unit facility within the next two years.

The barrier-free building, made up of one and two-bedroom apartments, will bridge an important gap between home ownership and long-term care, said Bev Buckway, vice-president of the society.

“The facility is geared towards seniors over 55 years of age living independent lives, who may find it physically and financially hard to maintain their homes and need a bit of assistance,” she said.

“The project, not to be confused with social housing initiatives, is designed to be self-supportive and will not require ongoing (operating and maintenance) funding from the Yukon government.”

Monthly fees, expected to be in the neighborhood of $2,400, will be significantly higher than the median rent in Whitehorse, which was $900 as of Dec. 2013 according to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

While the figure might seem steep, Buckway said seniors who live at the facility will be saving on expenditures such as home maintenance, insurance, property taxes, groceries and water.

“Yes, it’ll cost more, but we will have staff on-site and for people who have a modest pension it’s not out of reach,” she added.

The fee will also include two meals a day, light housekeeping, laundry and recreational activities.

The model is based on similar facilities run by the New Chelsea Society in British Columbia, one of the first Royal Canadian Legion housing societies established in Canada.

Work on this project initially began in 2011, when the VHHS approached the Yukon government with the idea.

Recently, a verbal agreement was established between the groups to co-operate on the new facility.

“Based on those discussions, our board feels confident that we are now in a position to go forward with the project,” Buckway said, noting the next steps include finding a location for the building, a project manager and starting a marketing campaign.

The final design of the building, as well as its estimated price tag of $18 million, is contingent on its location.

The VHSS is aiming for a portion of capital funding to come from the government and is hoping to obtain a piece of land from the city at a nominal fee.

“That combination of funding will help us keep rent fees low,” Buckway said.

A short fundraising stint has already brought in more than $70,000 and the society’s board members said that amount represents a clear support for the project.

The VHSS also has a few financial ideas to fall back on if it isn’t able to fill up every unit by the time the facility opens.

“The Yukon College brings in transient students who might need a place to stay and the health care department brings in patients on a temporary basis,” said Barbara Evans, VHSS treasurer.

“It would definitely help with our cash flow.”

A groundbreaking ceremony is anticipated for 2015, while completion is slated for 2016.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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