CMHC Supports P.E.I. Seniors at St. John House with Rent Subsidies
St. John House is a two-storey building with weathered cedar shingles and blue trim that is tucked in among the trees in the quiet setting of Stratford, Prince Edward Island. Located across the harbour from Charlottetown, this 20-unit seniors’ residence provides affordable housing for low-income seniors, who pay 25 per cent of their annual income to live there. The low rent has been made possible because of rent subsidies that have been provided by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) since St. John House opened in 1992.
St. John House receives subsidy under the Section 95 Non Profit Housing Program which was designed to assist in the development of affordable, adequate, and suitable rental housing for households in need. Under the program, CMHC invests close to $80,000 annually in St. John House to help reduce project operating costs and provide reduced rents based on rent-geared-to-income.
For 90-year-old Hazel MacDonald, who relies on the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, the low rent has been a “lifesaver.” Hazel moved into St. John House around 2008 following the death of her husband.
“I didn’t have a pension of my own — my husband did, but when he died, the work pension went with him,” Hazel said. “I could not afford a place at $800 a month. It’s wonderful to be here. It’s been a lifesaver for me.”
Larry and Nan Trainor, who have been living at St. John House since 2009, also appreciate the lower rent.
“We have OAS and a very small pension,” said Nan, 75. “I don’t know where we’d live if we didn’t have this place. I was getting worried. Everywhere, the rent is so high.”
St. John House is located at 1 St. John Avenue, Stratford, within easy access to the Trans-Canada Highway and nearby Charlottetown. The town, which has a population of 7,800, offers a beautiful scenic view of the province’s capital across the harbour. It is a fast-growing community of young families, some of whom use the daycare centre that is attached to the seniors’ residence.
The residence itself consists of 18 one-bedroom units and two, two-bedroom units on two floors that is serviced by an elevator. There is no programming or medical staff on the premises for the seniors, who range in age from 60 to 92 and who must be capable of independent living. An executive director manages the project on a day-to-day basis, while a board of directors oversees the administration.
All the residents agree that part of the enjoyment of living at St. John House is the fact that they get to socialize at a summer barbecue and a Christmas dinner. Both of these events are organized by the executive director with help from the board. The seniors also love to hand out treats to the daycare children on Halloween.
“Although my parents are no longer with us, I think about how I would have wanted them to be taken care of if they were living in a place like this. That’s how I manage the place. It cooks along quite nicely,” said Don Chandler, the Executive Director.