Kelowna subsidized apartments evacuated due to neighbouring UBC Okanagan construction

'Heart-wrenching to watch'

UPDATE 4:40 p.m.
BC Housing has issued a statement on support for Pathways Abilities Society with evacuation of Hadgraft Wilson Place in Kelowna

“BC Housing is aware that Pathways Abilities Society has been ordered by the City of Kelowna to immediately begin a planned evacuation of Hadgraft Wilson Place due to safety concerns resulting from construction activity at the nearby UBC Okanagan site. This order affects approximately 84 people who are living in the 68-unit building, as well as their pets. All tenants are required to move out of the building by the afternoon of April 2,” a release said

While BC Housing does not provide operational funding for the building, which is owned and operated by Pathways, BC Housing did provide funding and financing for the construction of the building.

“Given our role as a capital funding partner, after Pathways reached out to BC Housing, in January 2024 we hired structural and geotechnical engineering consultants to monitor the building and assess its structural integrity. We have shared these reports with Pathways, the City of Kelowna, UBC Okanagan, and UBC Properties Trust.”

According to recent reports, the adjacent shoring wall that is part of UBC Okanagan’s construction site is unstable.

“If this wall were to slip it could cause serious structural damage to Hadgraft Wilson Place. This new information about the risks of the wall come after earlier reports that showed UBC Okanagan’s construction activity had caused cracks in the walls and windows of Hadgraft Wilson Place,” BC Housing added.

Pathways is offering to secure accommodations for all tenants that wish to temporary relocate to a hotel.

“This is an incredibly stressful time for everyone involved, particularly for the tenants at Hadgraft Wilson Place who just moved into their new homes a few months ago, many after waiting years for a secure home they could afford,” the press release said

ORIGINAL: 2:30 p.m.

The Hadgraft Wilson Place subsidized apartment in Kelowna was evacuated on Easter Sunday due to damage caused by the downtown UBC Okanagan construction site.

Residents were escorted out of the building on Bertram Street just before 2 p.m. by members of the Kelowna Fire Department and city staff.

The Hadgraft Wilson building, which opened in June 2023, offers 68 units of affordable housing and 10 for clients of Pathways Abilities Society.

Many of the residents have physical or mental disabilities.

On Sunday afternoon, the City of Kelowna issued a news release saying residents will be evacuated for the next "several days."

"Recent assessments have indicated the level of risk is significant enough to begin the evacuation process to ensure the life and safety of occupants. Additionally, due to the shifting of the building, safety features may be compromised in the event of an emergency, creating additional risk to occupants," said fire chief Dwight Seymour.

The 43-storey UBC Okanagan tower planned for 550 Doyle Avenue includes a four-storey underground parkade, a first for Kelowna that requires a large excavation. That big dig has created significant problems for neighbouring buildings. The Kelowna Legion Hall on Bertram Street and Okanagan coLab at the corner of St. Paul and Doyle were also previously declared uninhabitable.

"I just moved in eight months ago, and we could see cracks starting to form already," said Hadgraft Wilson Place resident Megan Beckmann.

"They are giving everybody about 48 hours to relocate. A lot of these people have wheelchairs, and it is very difficult, very heart-wrenching to watch them get that news."

"It's obviously an affordable housing unit, so going back into mainstream rent is also a scary thought not knowing when you can come back. It's definitely frustrating. It's hard not to blame UBCO," Beckmann added.

UBCO has suspended construction activities at the downtown Kelowna site until further notice. Engineers will continue to monitor and assess the building and soil movement, said the city.

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