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Unstable UBCO construction site forces evacuation of 84 tenants

More than 80 residents of a low−income apartment building in Kelowna moved in just eight months ago but have now been told to leave over a "significant" risk to life and safety.

A statement from BC Housing said the 84 people who live in Hadgraft Wilson Place will have to move out by Tuesday due to concerns over construction activity at a nearby University of British Columbia−Okanagan site.

BC Housing said in a statement that recent geotechnical and structural engineering reports show a shoring wall is unstable at the construction site, and a slip "could cause serious structural damage" to the neighbouring apartment building.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

Pathways Abilities Society, which operates the building, is offering accommodation for tenants who need to temporarily relocate to a hotel.

Society executive director Charisse Daley said tenants and staff at the building are devastated by the unexpected evacuation notice.

"We’re beyond frustrated. This simply shouldn’t be happening and it was preventable,” said Daley in a statement.

“We have been notifying UBC Trust for months of the issues looking for solutions to the initial damage and wanting to ensure the long−term stability of the building,” read the statement.

However, Daley said the message they received from the university is that they "are not confident" the construction is causing the damage.

Daley said staff have formed "supporting caring relationships" with the tenants and it’s just unimaginable for tenants to be evacuated so soon after being allowed to move into the new building.

“We’re playing triage to address the immediate short−term problem while working on the longer−term solutions,” she said.

Kelowna Fire Chief Dwight Seymour said in a statement the level of risk is "significant enough to begin the evacuation process to ensure the life and safety of occupants and first responders."

BC Housing said new information about the risks of the shoring wall emerged after earlier reports showed construction activity at the UBC−Okanagan site caused cracks in the walls and windows of the nearby apartment building.

"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," BC Housing said in its statement.

The statement also said it is unclear when tenants will be able to return, and engineers will conduct a comprehensive review of the building as soon as all tenants have evacuated.

The society is asking people who have self−contained units and are able to rent in the short−term to contact them.

The university didn’t respond to request for comment on Monday.

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