Seniors housing gets a financial boost

Bonnie Belec
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Mount Pearl will kick in the land for the project

A project is in the works to build affordable housing, like these homes on Karwood Drive in Paradise, for seniors in the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl.
— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. (NLHC) has committed $400,000 to a private developer to build affordable housing for seniors in Mount Pearl, The Telegram has learned. And the city is providing the land.

NLHC CEO Len Simms said his officials reviewed 70 proposals submitted to the Private Sector Affordable Housing Program, which is cost-shared between the province and the federal government, and chose Karwood Contracting’s plan for a seniors complex.

“The proposal was approved by us as it was one of the best, because the city is providing the land and the design was one of the best,” he told The Telegram Friday.

“A big part of the reason for that is the city was onside and wanted more seniors housing, and this was a way for them to get it.”

Karwood is proposing to build a 4 1/2-storey apartment building geared towards seniors, with 10 of those units devoted to affordable housing.

Affordable housing, in this instance, said Simms, means it’s meant for seniors earning $32,500 or less annually.

They are not social housing units or subsidized properties, he said, but residences for seniors with modest incomes.

Social housing units are intended for families with a total income of $17,500 or less, he said.

Through the affordable housing agreement with the NLHC, Simms said the developer can charge no more than $700 a month for a two-bedroom unit for 10 years. After a decade, the landlord is not obligated to continue with the rent restriction.

However, Simms said NLHC’s housing partner, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., has advised them that rent increases and evictions after the 10-year period is up don’t usually happen.  

“So that issue — while it has come up periodically — really, it has never been an issue for us,” said Simms.

He said the NLHC requires the landlord to provide an annual report, and every year 20 per cent of the tenants provincewide are interviewed to ensure there aren’t any problems with their living arrangements.

In exchange for providing affordable housing for seniors, the developer gets $40,000 per unit in funding, to a maximum of 10 units.

When the program first started in this province in 2003, Simms said there were few takers. Back then, companies were given $15,000 per unit as an incentive.

But it started to catch on in 2006-2007, Simms said, resulting in the corporation teaming up with several developers to produce 85 projects providing about 900 affordable units.

This doesn’t include other projects with non-profit organizations for which NLHC provides $120,000 per unit.

“This is a program that is meant to help seniors and is meant to increase the number of affordable housing units around the province and thereby, hopefully, try to keep rents as level and low as possible,” Simms said.

He explained that CMHC sets the rent based on current market prices. However, the NLHC double-checks the rate with its own in-house evaluator to make sure the rent is fair.

The affordable housing program was to end in March 2014, but Simms said the Harper government has extended it for five years.

Regarding the Mount Pearl project, he said the NLHC reviewed the design and engineering for the 10 affordable housing units but has nothing to do with the remainder of the plan.

“We have no say in its size or height — that has to do with the developer and the city,” he said.

The project is still in the rezoning stage. The land on Municipal, Delaney and Orchard avenues is residential medium but would have to be residential high density for the project to go ahead.

Last week, a meeting was held at city hall to brief residents about the project. Most said they don’t want it in their backyards, but Mayor Randy Simms said something’s got to give.

“It’s far from a done deal, but I think what is a done deal, quite frankly at this point, in my opinion — I told residents the other night — I believe the issue of rezoning the land so that a development can occur there is going to happen,” the mayor told The Telegram Friday.

“Council could surprise me and all vote no and say it isn’t happening. Now whether or not what the developer has proposed, this 4 1/2-storey building with 42 units, whether that its going to go on that site I can’t say,” he said, adding the land is still in the city’s possession but it intends to give it to Karwood.

He said he understands residents’ concerns about losing the greenspace and the fears of increased traffic and water and sewer issues, but is confident that will all be dealt with as the development moves ahead.

“We all have some sympathy for residents who feel they’re being hard done by, and they’re not being hard done by because if they were we wouldn’t have told them what we are doing. But we are pursuing the rezoning of the land and it would be naive to believe that a piece of valuable property like that is going to be left vacant forever,” he said.

“Something is going to go there, and not only is the type of development we’re envisioning, seniors residential development, not only is it a good fit for that land, but it is probably — for the residents in the area — the least intrusive thing that could go there,” said Simms.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, The Telegram, Canada Mortgage and Housing

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • coco
    April 23, 2013 - 06:27

    Why rent increases and evictions after 10 years as a condition of seniors renting these apartments from NLHC? They will have paid for the unit twice over after about ten (10) years. If each unit costs $40,000 and the rent is $700; won't it only take only about five (5) years to pay it off? Why not charge half the rent ($350/mo) and let them pay for the unit over a 10 year period? They're seniors. It could be the last 10 years of their life. Why not allow them to keep a larger portion of their own money to circulate around in our economy? I read that our province gives more money to foreign owners of our resources, than any other province in Canada. If that is so, then our money is not circulating around in our economy in our communities or in our province, as it should. Do our politicians invest too much in foreign owned industry and too little in our local economy?

  • david
    April 23, 2013 - 01:21

    And like clockwork, the government steps in to create another mess, with more misallocated, disrespected public money used to bastardize and corrupt another perfectly capable private sector function. We are simply doomed to laughably bad, idiotic socialist ruin folks.

  • steadywaters
    April 22, 2013 - 20:05

    Randy once again no mention of the increased runoff adding to an already swollen water way when raining.Zero runoff policy is a joke,why not consult some one who knows or studies hydrology. This is not a valuable piece of land,this is affordable land. I am not against developement only against developement with out foresight.Whats next maybe forcing the homeowners on Park Ave with the immense lots to sell out so that buildings can be placed there also. On the lower end of Park and the upper part one could purchase three houses and put cul de sacs there or a court like set up similar to the ones in St John's. The river has been there a long time and the flooding that occurs with every rainfall greater than 25mm is something that is of recent happenings.Years ago it would only flood maybe twice a year,spring thaw , the occasional dying hurricane and of course ice jams.Re think this and look at other sites.If you are so interested in developement why not go up,I believe that a group of high rises near the industrial park would look good and be a pleasant sight to greet those coming into the city.The bonus would be the infrastucture already in place for the things that come with such developements,adaquate roads and a simply extra ordinary view of both CBS and St John's plus Shoal Bay. Hiking to the top of the hill next to Blackmarsh,up by the towers one can see all of this now.

  • California Pete from NFLD
    April 22, 2013 - 12:37

    So true what "GET WITH IT" said . Ilike to see an 80 year old go up the small narrow stairs with a walker. They just don't get it . What a waist of time and money. The contractor and architect must be of the younger generetion with no experiance in life.

    • LA
      April 22, 2013 - 13:58

      I'm wondering if Pete and 'Get with It' ever heard of elevators!!

  • Not Fair
    April 22, 2013 - 12:22

    Be non-senior make under 17500 and get social housing and probally lots of low income benefits from government too. Be a senior and make under 32500 and get affordable housing and tax breaks or fee breaks from all levels of government. Be an average working poor person making 20000 and get nothing. Where is the justice???

  • Get with it
    April 22, 2013 - 12:03

    Ok. Affordable housing, but have no say to the developer in the size or height. Come on, get with it. Surely, most seniors today need ground level accommodations to meet their physical needs. If the government are giving the land, then they should have a say in this.

  • Misleading ???
    April 22, 2013 - 08:14

    It is too bad the picture of those beautiful row houses in the article are not the design idea of the developer. The Telegram should have been more accurate and took a picture of the condo development and put in with this article, instead of misleading the readers.

  • Marg
    April 22, 2013 - 07:58

    So Seniors receiving only CPP and OAS are eliminated. I have an application in for over two years at NL Housing and when I phone them every now and then, they just say 'you're still on the list'. I've lived alone for nineteen years. I worked for almost forty years so paid taxes and to end up like this is heartaching. I do not smoke or drink or go to Bingo or buy Nevada tickets, etc., so my money isn't being wasted. My money is for rent, heat and light, groceries, and numerous medications; no luxuries whatsoever. People on the Welfare System are better off. I am an excellent tenant but just cannot get a break. However, I do thank God for the blessings I do have.

    • not fair
      April 22, 2013 - 11:28

      this is definitely not fair i am living on income support because of a disability that i required through no fault of my own, i ahve been renting for 28 years ,and am really in need of affordable quiet housing, why is there no more emphasis placed on people like my self!i am an excellent tenant and can provide references, i just need a break before i am too old to enjoy my life!