New building, old idea for Alexander Street

A new seniors' home will rise from the rubble of the aging, soon-to-be-demolished Alexander Street facility, the Yukon government announced Wednesday.

A new seniors’ home will rise from the rubble of the aging, soon-to-be-demolished Alexander Street facility, the Yukon government announced Wednesday.

Residents should move into the new building by the summer of 2014, said Scott Kent, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.

The new building will include 34 new units – 21 more than what stands there now.

The project is expected to cost $12.6 million. Ottawa is throwing in $2.55 million.

The territory previously planned to transform 207 Alexander into supportive housing for people with disabilities. But, after residents were moved into the new residence at Waterfront Place, across from Walmart, it was discovered that it would cost more to renovate the building than tear it down and rebuild.

That’s largely because of the presence of asbestos and lead paint – common building materials back in 1963 when the residence was built, but considered hazardous materials now, and costly to remove.

At Wednesday’s announcement, Premier Darrell Pasloski, MP Ryan Leef and Kent all commented on how perfect the location was for seniors who tend to prefer downtown apartments, close to their doctors and grocery stores.

The location served well as a seniors’ home for 50 years before it was closed last summer.

“Seniors are the fastest-growing population group in Yukon,” said Kent. “The number of seniors 65 and older is projected to almost double by 2021 to make up 15 per cent of the population.”

There are 50 seniors on the waiting list for housing, and another 50 people on the social housing waiting list, said Kent.

Making more housing for seniors should ease demand for social housing, said Claire Derome, chair of the housing corporation’s board.

In the past five years, the Yukon Housing Corporation has built nine seniors’ housing units in Haines Junction, six in Faro, eight in Teslin, 12 in Watson Lake and 30 in Whitehorse, she said.

Others communities may also see more senior housing in the future, she added.

But that’s still not enough, said Kate White, the NDP’s housing critic.

“One-off project announcements like we’ve just gotten from the territory and federal governments aren’t going to solve the problem,” she said. “The housing crisis is the Yukon Party government’s biggest failure. We don’t need to look very far to be reminded that they’re still sitting on $13 million of federal affordable-housing money that hasn’t been used. And we’re still waiting for a housing strategy. We want a clear plan with targets and timelines, and something that’s attainable.”

None of the $7.4 million going to Alexander Street would be coming from the $13 million left over from federal funding the territory collected from 2008 to 2010, said Pasloski.

White also criticized the seniors’ units at the Waterfront Place. They have things like one-piece tubs that many seniors cannot get in and out of easily, she said.

Working with seniors directly would make sure things like that don’t happen again, she added.

Work on Alexander Street will begin immediately, with the tendering of the demolition contract, said Kent.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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