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Proposed seniors development in Vernon described as 'pilot project for affordability'

Pictured is an artist's rendering of a proposed seniors housing development on 31 Avenue in downtown Vernon.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
May 25, 2017 - 2:43 PM

VERNON - Plans for a new seniors housing development in Vernon include a unique focus on affordability. 

Details about the proposed 70-unit supportive care facility on 31 Avenue downtown, where the old Vernon Legion building sits, were shared with Vernon council Tuesday, May 23.

Terry Collier, a professor at Red Deer College who is working with the development corporation, said the project design is fairly uncommon in the industry.

“This is a very unique project,” Collier said. “There’s five others that a large corporation has endeavoured almost as a pilot project for affordability.”

The building would feature large suites where a live-in caregiver, or ‘granny-nanny’ could stay, Collier said. Rents would fall under the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s definition of affordable housing being less than 30 per cent of household income.

“The operators do not look at every resident to maximize their income. They’re not taking a profit on housekeeping, they’re not taking a profit on food services, they’re not taking a profit on… linen service. It’s a very different, unique model,” he said.

He referenced the high cost of seniors care and long waitlists for beds, saying we need to get creative to make things more affordable.

“We need to come up with unique ways of cutting costs… and asking the government to do it is not efficient and it’s not sustainable,” he said.

On Tuesday, Vernon council voted to support zoning variances allowing the building to go from four to six storeys, and to reduce underground parking spaces. Collier noted that less parking is needed because the live-in caretakers are frequently foreign workers who do not own vehicles. He noted that proximity to public transit, which this site has, is key for a development of this kind.

Collier said the proposal is probably ten years ahead of its time, and a rare opportunity. 

“This is the first time in my career I’ve been asked to deal with affordability issues,” he said.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham pointed out that many seniors have to sell their homes to afford moving into residential care, and applauded the project for its focus on affordability.

“Seeing something like this with the opportunities for very affordable rents, and still allowing some family to provide on site support, I think it’s really exciting,” she said.


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