Some residents of Cariboo Sunset Manor in Williams Lake are expressing frustration after living in a construction zone since May of 2022.
The subsidized housing facility is wrapped in scaffolding, tarps and plastic mesh, blocking much of the light to the units and residents have no access to their balconies. BC Housing, which operates the building, said things are progressing on time and the upgrades will improve the aging facility and provide better safety and security for residents.
The project includes the installation of new windows, exterior doors, a new fire alarm system, and electrical and HVAC system upgrades among other things.
During the upgrades, residents have been required to move belongings and vacate suites for periods of over two weeks, then they return to still have a number of aspects of the work not completed. Many were unable to fully unpack their belongings for weeks or more after returning so workers could access areas. BC Housing said residents were informed of the plans and were told some work would have to be completed after residents returned to their homes.
At the time of a visit by Black Press Media, residents pointed out construction materials cluttering hallways, dust on surfaces in their units and windows they said were installed weeks ago still unfinished throughout the building, but BC Housing said there are cleanliness protocols in place.
“Although we do everything we can to reduce the impact to residents during any construction, we also know this work is disruptive. That’s why we work with trusted and vetted contractors, like New City Construction, whenever possible,” stated BC Housing.
“It’s still a complete mess,” said Henry Loedell, who has been concerned the project is not being well-managed since it began. Loedell himself is a retired construction site superintendent, and worked in the industry for decades before retiring.
“Nothing ever gets finished,” said Loedell, who was out of his apartment for 16 days starting on Dec. 8, 2022, and put up in the Sandman Hotel in downtown Williams Lake for that period.
Smoke detectors in some suites hang from the ceiling uninstalled, but BC Housing said the building’s previous fire alarm system remains in place until the new system is completed. They also said there is a 24-hour fire watch supervision until it is fully up and running.
Two other manor residents Sue and Jack Watson also have been experiencing challenges, with belongings piled in boxes in order to keep access open, dust piling up daily on surfaces, and an unconnected smoke alarm. Sue has been experiencing a scratchy throat since returning home, despite dusting daily inside their suite.
The couple also recounted a five-hour power outage during the coldest part of December.
They had been using two small electric space heaters provided by BC Housing to heat their unit while renovations left them without their usual heat source and when the power went out, their unit became cold very quickly. The lack of power also meant many could not get their vehicles out of the building as the power was cut to the garage door.
Jack Watson was able to lift the heavy door and he and Sue were able to leave, but Sue said she could not have moved it on her own, and many of their fellow residents would have the same problem.
BC Housing said the outage was caused by an electrical panel failure, while waiting for a new panel to arrive, but an electrician was called and able to make temporary repairs to restore electricity and heat by the end of the day.
Sue would like to see compensation of some kind for residents for either meals while they had to eat out during their relocation or rent to offset the inconvenience, but mostly she just wants to see some progress.
While visiting residents for the story on Jan. 5, 2023, the apartment building did not have running water, after crews had accidentally caused a line break. A plumber had to be called for repairs and water was restored later the same day.
Since the visit, Loedell has had his air exchange unit installed in his suite, but his smoke detector remains unconnected and other wires and unfinished openings still remain, as does the scaffolding and coverings wrapping the building.
He said a new construction site superintendent on the project makes him hopeful the project will begin to improve for residents and he did notice hallways were getting mopped at the end of the day on Jan. 19, which would help address the dust.
Loedell has lived at Sunset Manor for 14 years, and until now has been happy with it.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include responses from BC Housing and updates from residents.
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