The Yukon Housing Corporation is delaying a decision on who will live in the athletes’ village after the Games until March 1.
That’s fortunate timing for the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness.
The group has recently begun pushing the corporation’s board of directors not to offer units in the building exclusively to seniors, but to offer a mixture of people a home in the facility, said volunteer chair Ross Findlater.
“We’ve expressed an interest that the target population for residents be broadened,” said Findlater, citing a letter the group submitted to Yukon Housing last week.
“We’re not saying it shouldn’t be for seniors, but we’re thinking there’s at least an equal need for single parents with young children and for women who have been experiencing abuse,” he said.
The lack of adequate public housing in Whitehorse is forcing women and single mothers who flee abuse to stay at facilities such as Kaushee’s Place longer than the should, said Findlater.
And a shortage of independent living options for adults living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder could be addressed with units at the village, he said.
Many provinces mix residents in subsidized housing facilities and there are merits to the approach, added Findlater.
“We’re just trying to have them think more broadly,” he said. “Up until now, the only reference we’ve heard through the media (about who will live at the athletes’ village) has been seniors.”
Thanks to continued delays by the Yukon Housing Corporation’s board of directors to make a final decision, it appears the planning group’s proposals may be considered.
The board has been under pressure to make a decision since November, when it was revealed the village building the corporation will own after the Games — the second building is becoming student residences for Yukon College — may not have the appropriate zoning from Whitehorse.
With a rezoning application requiring several months, opposition MLAs pushed the government to reveal who would be living at the facility, and whether that use would require a rezone.
There is still no clear answer.
And a board of directors meeting scheduled for February 16 has been delayed until March 1, said vice-president Louise Girard.
“There was a change in plans at the last minute and we have to change the date,” said Girard. “It’s a board decision and it’s not something I can share.
“We had said tentatively, ‘in January,’ but there was no date set in January,” she said.
“March 1 is still early. It could be that the board would want some additional research and it could be another month before they make a final-final decision.
“We hope to get a decision fairly soon so that we can plan accordingly, but I can’t predict the decision the board will make,” she said.
Many fear continued indecision on the building’s fate could mean it will sit empty for months after the Games, but Girard is adamant it won’t.
“This doesn’t change anything,” she said. “It will depend on how long it takes to fix the buildings.”
Following the Games, which end on March 10, water heaters and other aspects of the building will have to be changed, Girard explained in a previous interview.
There are currently no estimates of cost or time required for the work, but the proposed opening of the building is between July and August, she said.
But, she emphasized, that’s not set in stone.
The continued uncertainty surrounding the village buildings is disappointing for Findlater.
“Clearly, in terms of meeting the currently unmet need, it’s a shame that it isn’t going to be available sooner,” he said.
“I realize there are some renovations and cleanups after the Canada Games, but it would be really nice to have this facility available to Yukoners in need as early as possible.”