Seniors’ group asks council for discount

Mission Association for Seniors' Housing has requested to pay only 50 per cent of DCCs

Council deferred deciding Monday night whether to reduce development cost charges by half for a planned seniors’ residence on Cedar Street.

The Mission Association for Seniors’ Housing (MASH) led a delegation before council Feb. 6 requesting the drop in order to provide affordable housing for seniors.

Currently, MASH is set to build a 42-unit facility at Cherry Avenue and Cedar Street called Cedar Valley Manor; DCCs will cost $550,494. Since MASH builds housing at-cost for seniors, this increases each unit’s price by $13,107.

MASH is proposing life-lease housing for tenants — a cross between owning and renting in which people buy their units and the leasehold interest is registered on the title — but the non-profit organization will maintain ownership of the building. At the end of the lease, the owner retains 95 per cent of the equity on the unit.

The group had asked the previous council in October to review how DCCs are levied by the district on new affordable housing. Council has taken steps to help MASH in the past, waiving the Community Amenity Contribution of $118,230 ($2,815 per unit) last July, as it considered affordable housing a community service.

But the new council wasn’t so sure that MASH’s life-leasing housing qualifies as affordable housing.

Coun. Dave Hensman said since the units cost upwards of $199,000 up front, it can’t possibly qualify as low-income housing. He went on to suggest that another viable option would be to purchase housing in a seniors’ complex or other facility.

But MASH president Judith Ray said that currently no low-income housing for seniors exists anywhere in Canada as that would require help from the provincial and federal governments.

She said the vast majority of seniors already own their homes, but are “house rich and cash poor,” which puts them in a position to sell their home and move into a life-lease unit.

Hensman said the problem with reducing DCCs is that they pay for quality infrastructure that will be used by the development regardless of its purpose.

Council voted to have staff come back with a report Feb. 20 that outlines the pros and cons of granting MASH’s request. The report will also look at what council has provided MASH in the past, and examine a potential permissive tax exemption.