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Temporary housing program could begin in February: Safe at Home

Safe at Home Society said it is working with the City of Whitehorse to get permit
The former Coast High Country Inn, seen on Nov. 2, 2022, could turn into temporary housing before it gets converted into a social housing project. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

The Safe at Home Society is waiting on a permit before proceeding with a temporary housing program at the former Coast High Country Inn on Fourth Avenue.

Receipt of the temporary occupancy permit is “imminent” from the City of Whitehorse, according to Safe at Home executive director Kate Mechan.

Safe at Home will be administering and operating the program at the former hotel. It’s expected to run from February to June, she said.

Mechan said the temporary program can’t begin until Safe at Home is “confident” it has the appropriate staff-to-tenant ratios for 24/7 operations.

“While the building is ready to go, we need staff to ensure the safety and security of tenants,” she said.

“Staffing up is underway.”

An update on the construction of a permanent housing project in that location was not available.

Mechan said the Yukon Housing Corporation will be providing money for start-up costs and the department of Health and Social Services will be supporting operating costs.

According to a Jan. 10 statement from cabinet communications, the Yukon government is working with all partners on carrying out the temporary winter housing. The Yukon Housing Corp. is committing funding to support “minor updates,” while Health and Social Services is committing funding for staff.

The News asked if Yukoners are being left out in the cold as a result of shelters reaching capacity on a nightly basis.

“At this point, we understand there has not been a need identified for expanded emergency shelter capacity,” reads the statement.

Fourth and Jeckell

In the legislature on Oct. 19, Yukon Party housing critic, Yvonne Clarke, held Ranj Pillai to his previous answer on another potential housing project.

Pillai, who is currently the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation as well as the newly sworn-in premier, said the Fourth Avenue and Jeckell Street project is intended to add 47 affordable housing units to downtown. He said the project was expected to be ready this fall, but the installation of substandard flooring has gotten in the way.

“This is on me,” Pillai said.

“We are going to try to make sure that the flooring subcontractor remedies the situation so that we can get people into this building in a very much-needed way under the current circumstances here in the Yukon.”

On Nov. 24, Clarke brought the project up again.

“I am glad we are having the opportunity to go through the same questioning that we did a couple of weeks ago on this topic. You are absolutely correct. In the spring session, I said I would take full responsibility for the timeline. I came back into the legislative assembly this fall, and the timeline was missed. I definitely took full responsibility for that,” Pillai said.

“The problem at hand is that there was a flaw in the flooring that was put into the new building, and we were grappling with the fact that there is legal obligation to ensure that we look after taxpayers’ dollars, and we made sure that flooring is replaced with suitable flooring, and not at the cost of Yukon taxpayers.”

Pillai said the Yukon Housing Corporation has been asked to look at the logistics and fast-track getting people into the building.

In the statement from cabinet communications, the flooring installer and the supplier are working on a solution.

“The Yukon Housing Corporation has made the general contractor aware this is of paramount importance and we understand this issue is between the contractor and the supplier,” reads the statement.

“Yukon Housing is working with Wildstone Construction and Engineering on a schedule for addressing deficiencies and incomplete work in order to move tenants in as soon as possible.”

Nine tenants have been identified so far, according to the statement.

The Yukon government has allocated $21.7 million to this project, which took into consideration cost overruns and COVID-19 challenges. In the statement, cabinet communications said the total project costs as of Jan. 5 are $20.9 million.

Fifth and Rogers

The Liberals intend on having potentially 300 units built at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street, but the latest hold up at this site related to the series of landslides along the escarpment in 2022.

“Look, the city communicated with us; they told us that we needed to go and make sure there was geotechnical work done to make sure the site was suitable to develop,” Pillai told the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

The statement from cabinet communications indicates the following: “Yukon Housing Corporation is working closely with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and City of Whitehorse to conduct a geotechnical study on the escarpment — specifically the portion of the escarpment near this site — to ensure that the required berm construction is sufficient to mitigate any future landslide risks.”

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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