Sternwheeler Village sees evictions

Monica Holick and her fiance Andrew Moore were handed an eviction notice Thursday. The couple, who have been living in Whitehorse's Sternwheeler Village for the last seven years, said the eviction came without warning.

Monica Holick and her fiance Andrew Moore were handed an eviction notice Thursday.

The couple, who have been living in Whitehorse’s Sternwheeler Village for the last seven years, said the eviction came without warning.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Holick. “We’re weighing our options.”

They have been thinking about moving for the last few weeks, since they found out that the new owners of their apartment complex, Kareway Homes, are planning to turn all 50 rental apartments into condos this fall.

While Moore works full time, Holick is only able to work sporadically because of medical problems, so money is tight and their options are few.

“Three months was a lot better than 30 days, though,” said Moore.

But the eviction doesn’t have anything to do with the conversion of the buildings, said Wayne Cunningham, the president of Kareway Homes.

Only two eviction notices were handed out Thursday, to tenants who had not kept their apartments up to snuff, he said.

“There’s a certain standard that a person should be keeping a place to,” said Cunningham. “If things continued on like that, the whole place would have to be condemned.”

When Cunningham did a walk-through recently, he was shocked by what he saw in both apartments. “They’re destroying the place by the way they’re keeping it,” he said.

While Holick admits she’s not the best housekeeper, there are much bigger problems with her apartment than a messy kitchen.

It’s evident as soon as you walk through the door.

In the foyer there is a hole in the ceiling where water is leaking out from the tub in the bathroom.

Holik said she’s complained about it for weeks, but nothing’s been done.

Many of Sternwheeler Village’s units have been renovated, but Holick’s never has.

The apartment still has its original carpet, which is now covered in black stains caused by the underlay rotting.

Trying to clean the carpet only makes it worse, said Holick.

“Every time it gets washed all of the dark stuff seeps up from underneath,” she said. “It’s really gross.

“It should have been removed years ago.”

But that’s not the worst of it. The entire place smells like mildew.

Any time Holick runs the dishwasher or washing machine the water backs up from a drain in the basement, leaving a puddle that takes more than six hours to empty.

The smell down there is stifling.

In the winter, if they put plastic up on the windows, black mould spreads through the entire house, she said. But without insulating the windows their electric bills are around $1,000 a month.

Even still, there is always a battle with mould and peeling paint in the bathroom, because without a fan, it lacks proper ventilation.

Building management has promised to install a fan every year for the last seven, said Holick.

“I think these things, these major repairs, the things that are affecting our lives, are the landlord’s responsibility,” said Holick. “We’ve done our due diligence by reporting it to them.”

Cunningham only took possession of the buildings a few weeks ago, and his company has already started doing repairs. The conditions of the units vary considerably, he said.

While many have been renovated recently, some, like Holick’s, need basic things, like bathroom fans, just to bring them up to code.

There is mould in some units, but it’s not that big of a problem, said Cunningham. “It’s only little spots in different places,” he said.

So far he’s identified five or six units that need some serious work.

“I’m definitely going to have those people move out by September,” he said.

For those who have been good tenants and want to stay, Cunningham is hopeful something can be worked out.

“It depends on the people,” he said. “We have quite a few of them that do want to buy and have been very good renters so it’s worth working with those people.”

And with the territory looking at developing programs to help people finance down payments, Cunningham is confident that almost anyone who can afford to rent will be able to afford to buy.

When the condos go up for sale, a fully renovated Sternwheeler unit will sell for around $270,000.

The first units should be ready this fall, but it will take until next year before the entire complex is done, said Cunningham.

With the vacancy rate in Whitehorse hovering around one per cent, those that don’t want to buy, and those that can’t, like Holick, will have a tough time finding housing.

But keeping the building as a rental property just wasn’t an option, said Cunningham.

“There’s no money in rentals at today’s prices for building,” he said. “If you could rent them all for $1,800 or $2,000 a month, it’s still just barely making a dent.

“If somebody didn’t take this building and do something with it, within probably 10 to 15 years it would be a real slum and have to be torn down. Things get to a point where it doesn’t pay to fix them up.”

Contact Josh Kerr