Kim Robbins had been looking for nearly a year for an accessible apartment that could accommodate both her guide dog, Duke, and her service dog, Keisha. The 29-year-old had been temporarily living in her parent’s non-accessible split-level Newfoundland home. Having two assistance dogs added to her challenge of finding suitable housing.
“It’s not common to have both a guide dog and a service dog,” said Kim, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2004. “Most landlords won’t allow more than one dog.”
Fortunately for Kim, a commercial building in Torbay, located just outside St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, was recently transformed into six affordable apartments for people with mobility issues. The building’s accessibility features include wide hallways and doorways, grab bars and lowered light switches and counters.
The building was completed by 640 Torbay Road Inc., a private partnership between Michael Duffy, a lawyer, and REALTOR® Wayne Hanlon. The partners purchased the 10-year-old vacant commercial building, stripped it to its bare bones and rebuilt from top to bottom. Electrical and plumbing fixtures were reconfigured, and windows were added for the six new apartments.
The project received a combined federal and provincial contribution of $296,000 through Canada’s Economic Action Plan (CEAP).
CEAP provided for a one-time investment of more than $2 billion over two years for the construction of new and the renovation of existing social housing across Canada. Of this amount, $75 million was designated for housing for persons with disabilities, to help ensure that they can continue to live independently and remain in their communities.
In March 2011, tenants started moving into the converted building, which is centrally located on Torbay’s main street, close to the bank, medical centre, drug store, town hall and fire department. Tenants include a senior couple who could no longer manage in their home and people with mobility issues like Kim.
“When I saw it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I can go anywhere in the building. I didn’t know what to say,” said Kim.
“It’s a beautiful building. Residents will be able to age in place,” agreed Duffy, who has been on the board of Easter Seals Canada for more than 20 years. “We have a shortage of affordable housing here and a severe shortage of accessible housing.
“I’m quite happy with what we accomplished,” he added. ”We thought it was an important thing to do. We will do more in the future.”