Seniors, families get bulk of $60 million housing boost

A host of outdated apartments and social housing units are soon to be bulldozed thanks to a $60-million housing boost from both the federal and territorial governments.

A host of outdated apartments and social housing units are soon to be bulldozed thanks to a $60-million housing boost from both the federal and territorial governments.

Dawson City’s 1950s-era Korbo Apartments have seen the end of their days as social housing. They will soon be replaced by an entirely new structure at a different location.

Whitehorse’s aging Alexander Street Residence has stood since 1963. By 2010, hammers will start swinging on a successor, either on the same site or a new location.

And Yukon Housing Corp. plans to upgrade some of its 576 social housing units spread across 10 communities.

“It’s our intention to spend every penny; you’re not getting any of that back, sorry,” said Jim Kenyon, minister responsible for Yukon Housing, speaking at a press conference in Yellowknife.

The funding will create “hundreds” of construction jobs, said Kenyon.

The Children’s Receiving Home in Whitehorse will finally be demolished and replaced. The home has long been known to contain mould and asbestos and its blind corners and narrow hallways have been criticized because they leave employees vulnerable to assault.

“It should be closed permanently,” said a 2007 newsletter by the Yukon Employees’ Union.

“We’ve been asking to have the Children’s Receiving Home replaced for three or four years,” said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff.

Five of the 10 new housing projects have been targeted at Yukon seniors.

Seniors in Watson Lake, Teslin and Faro will no longer need to move to Whitehorse to seek old-age care, thanks to new locally based independent living structures.

Watson Lake’s last attempt to build a seniors’ facility quickly became a multimillion-dollar debacle. More than $4 million was spent on a proposed long-term care facility, which now stands as a rusting steel hulk. Officials are working to salvage the project by converting it to a hospital.

Ottawa has put up $54 million of the funding boost, along with an additional $6 million from the territory.

The money comes as part of the federal government’s Economic Action Plan, a $20-billion injection into the Canadian economy.

Yukon Housing was given a two-year time frame in which to spend the funds. As a result, the grants had to go to “shovel-ready” projects.

“It’s a bit of a use-it-or-lose-it type situation, so we really had to go with the projects that we could move the quickest on,” said Ron MacMillan, president of Yukon Housing.

Given the short timeline, there’s a real possibility the Yukon won’t be able to access all the available money, said Cardiff.

But the Crown corporation will do what it can, said MacMillan.

“We’re going to do renovation and repair on as many existing units as we’re able to within the two-year time frame,” he said.

The announcement neglected Yukon First Nations, said Cardiff.

That’s “where the need for safe and healthy housing is greatest,” he said.

As with all Yukon Housing construction projects, the new buildings will meet SuperGreen standards.

“Somebody joked months ago, that with one of these (SuperGreen) buildings, you could heat it with a cat,” said Kenyon.

“But if it’s a really big home it might take two cats,” he said.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com