Demand for affordable seniors housing is high in British Columbia, according to a recent study by BC Housing. A significant number of seniors in the province are spending more than one third of their incomes on housing, and some small communities have no housing designated specifically for seniors.
In 2009, a new $123.5 million Seniors’ Rental Housing (SRH) Initiative was announced by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia to build approximately 1,300 new affordable rental units for seniors throughout the province. The initiative was funded by Canada’s Economic Action Plan (CEAP) and helped to stimulate local economies in smaller communities across B.C.
Under the terms of the agreement, the provincial and federal governments provided matching contributions of $61.79 million. The federal contribution to the SRH Initiative included $52 million for seniors housing and $9.79 million for housing for persons with disabilities.
One of the advantages of modular, manufactured housing is that the houses can be built year round, regardless of weather conditions. Foundations can be built in most circumstances except extreme cold, and roof systems can be installed quickly once the main structural modules arrive and are erected. As a result, jobs are created not only at the factory but also on site.
“Due to the downturn in new home orders, employees are not being consistently engaged and capacity is sitting idle,” said Rick Higgs, executive director of the Manufactured Housing Association of BC. “Using BC wood is good for everyone in the province. Everybody can use the work and everybody’s pencil will be sharpened to provide the best value in a competitive market. It means that public money will go farther.”
For the SRH Initiative, BC Housing designed compact (600 square foot), energy-efficient homes that can be erected quickly in communities across the province. Although designed specifically for independent seniors aged 55 and over, accessibility features have been incorporated to make the homes suitable for persons with disabilities, including ground-level entries, room for walkers and wheelchairs, and grab bars.
Because the “little town homes” can be clustered in groups and located close to public transit, shops and services, seniors and persons with disabilities are able to stay involved in their communities and continue to live close to family and friends.
All of the new buildings must meet specific energy efficiency requirements and greenhouse gas reduction targets. They must also use ENERGY STAR qualified products.
Construction of the first of the SRH 236 units started in 2010. Developments include:
- Hustwick Place, a development for low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Parksville, B.C., which received a combined total of almost $4.2 million for 28 of its 33 units.
- A housing development in Kelowna, which received $5.37 million in combined funding to create 36 units.
- In Richmond, Maple Residences, a 144-unit housing development with support services for seniors, received $3.9 million in combined funding for 30 units, while Remy, a 188-unit housing development, received a combined total of $4.75 million for 33 units.
- In Penticton, B.C., 22 affordable units are included in a 58-unit housing development for seniors and persons with disabilities, and received combined funding of $3.28 million.
- All 16 units of a modular housing development in Lumby, B.C. for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities are affordable SRH units and received combined funding of $2.1 million.
- In Kamloops, B.C., River Bend Seniors Community received $3.21 million in combined funding for 26 units, while Golden Vista received nearly $1.9 million in combined funding for 15 units.
- In Squamish, B.C. 30 affordable SRH units were created in an 80-unit building for $4.35 million in combined funding.
Overall, CEAP included $2 billion over two years for the construction of new and the renovation of existing social housing across Canada. Of this amount, $400 million was set aside for the construction of new rental housing for low-income seniors and $75 million was invested in new housing for persons with disabilities.