Supportive housing project at former Whitehorse hotel hits a snag

The former High Country Inn in Whitehorse needs renovations to bring it up to code as supportive housing, according to the Safe at Home Society. The original goal was to have tenants moved in this fall but that's not going to happen. (Leslie Amminson/CBC - image credit)
The former High Country Inn in Whitehorse needs renovations to bring it up to code as supportive housing, according to the Safe at Home Society. The original goal was to have tenants moved in this fall but that's not going to happen. (Leslie Amminson/CBC - image credit)

Tenants of a new supportive housing project in Whitehorse's former High Country Inn won't be moving in this fall as originally planned. They'll have to wait until sometime next year.

Safe at Home Society executive director Kate Mechan said a building assessment determined that code-related renovations had to be done before it could be used as a supportive housing facility. The Safe at Home Society is leading the project.

"When the building will become affordable housing, that's a change in use from commercial to residential," Mechan said.

"That kicks in a whole lot of code-related obligations on the part of Safe at Home. We didn't foresee this barrier so this will impact our budget and our timeline for completion."

Mechan says the building is old and there are a few areas that need repair and renovation.

"Things related to the structure of the building," she said. "Fire-proofing and fire safety, the mechanical aspects of the building, and hazmat removal."

Mechan said at this point it is unclear how much more money will be needed.

"That's one of the things that, as we redefine and integrate these code-related pieces into the scope of work ... We anticipate to have a better idea in January," she said.

So far, the federal government has committed $15 million to the project and the Yukon Housing Corporation has contributed $1 million.

Mechan said her goal now is for construction to begin in the spring of 2023 and that her organization is working with all current and future funding partners to meet the additional financial needs of the project.

Jackie Hong/CBC
Jackie Hong/CBC

More units than originally planned 

The former hotel was purchased by the Safe at Home Society last January with plans to create 55 new units of affordable housing.

Mechan says there is a silver lining to the delay.

"When we've been doing some of our design work over the past seven or so months," she said, "we've kind of learned  through the creativity of our architect that we can actually, instead of 55 units we can actually integrate 67 units."

Mechan says her organization is looking options for people who require housing in the meantime. One option could see her organization partially occupy the building this winter.

"Not the entire building but partially to be a part of a winter emergency response to homelessness. I want people to be able to balance the disappointment and conundrum that Safe at Home is in with the fact that we're really trying to be a part of the solution," she said.

"This is very far from our ideal scenario but I'm committed to moving this project forward."