Residents with disabilities scramble after being evicted from Kelowna apartment due to UBCO construction

Residents left scrambling

Madison Reeve

Residents at the Hadgraft Wilson Place subsidized apartment complex on Bertram Street have until the end of Tuesday to pack up their belongings and evacuate the building.

"It's scary. It's really hard because when we got the news, half of us had panic attacks because we have all been waiting a long time," said resident Natasha Chance, speaking to Castanet inside her unit which has experienced significant cracking.

Chance said she has been calling the building manager "almost weekly" to report issues.

"My door wouldn't close. We have noticed shifts in the doors in lots of units," she said.

Residents were given the evacuation notice on Easter Sunday.

Hadgraft Wilson Place opened in June 2023. Residents say cracks and foundational shifts began to take place shortly after construction began at the neighbouring downtown UBC Okanagan site.

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.

"It's hard for people with diverse abilities. Especially when you have a [wheelchair]. When you have a chair, there are a lot more technicalities, and if I become homeless because of the new building going up, there is no other accessible low-income housing," said resident Paul Thomas.

Hadgraft Wilson offers 68 units of affordable housing and 10 for clients of Pathways Abilities Society. The executive director of Pathways said Monday they are "beyond frustrated" with the situation.

Many of the residents have physical or mental disabilities.

Stan Biggs, one of the residents' fathers, told Castanet the residents are being put up in hotels, for now.

"They will be looked after well over the next few days. On Friday, there will be a decision as to whether they can come back or not," Biggs said.

UBC Okanagan has suspended construction activities at the downtown Kelowna site until further notice.

On Sunday, the City of Kelowna issued a news release saying, "Recent assessments have indicated the level of risk is significant enough to begin the evacuation process to ensure the life and safety of occupants."

Members from the City of Kelowna took part in a meeting Tuesday morning to assess the situation.

"Given the complex nature of this project, UBC and UBC Properties Trust will take time to study the most recent engineering reports and consult with the city to establish the appropriate next steps. We will share that information as it becomes available," said a statement from UBC Okanagan on Sunday.

At this time no new information is being released.

"My biggest fear is not coming back," Thomas said.

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