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Affordable Kelowna seniors housing lost to market rental project

Abbeyfield Canada is looking to the community for replacement housing

A supportive seniors housing facility in Kelowna is being sold by owner Abbeyfield Canada to make way for a new six-storey, 51-unit apartment development.

The decision to sell was revealed in a press release issued on Dec. 20, by Joe McReynolds, president of Abbeyfield Canada, acknowledging that selling the property “is very unsettling for the residents and staff.”

“Abbeyfield Houses exist to ensure older adults who arse alone and lonely can continue to live an independent life in an affordable and supportive environment,” stated McReynolds.

Currently, Abbeyfield Canada has 19 houses across Canada - four in Ontario, two in Saskatchewan, one in Alberta and 12 in B.C. – housing about 350 seniors and operated individually by local non-profit societies

Abbeyfield’s core mandate is to provide affordable accommodation and companionship for lonely seniors within their community, achieved by converting and maintaining houses in which, typically, a small group of residents live together with a house manager. Each house is operated by a non-profit, registered charity, which in Kelowna’s case was the Orchard City Abbeyfield Society.

“We are reaching out to the board of the Kelowna House to understand the next steps in the sale process and ensure the current residents are accommodated with the least possible disruption,” continued McReynolds.

“And, we want to let the residents of Kelowna (know) that we want Abbeyfield Services to continue in their community.”

McReynolds blamed increasing operating costs related to the age of the duplex-style Kelowna facility and the difficulty all charitable groups are having with volunteer recruitment, which he said led the Orchard City board to suspend the operation of the facility.

“It is the desire of Abbeyfield Canada that an Abbeyfield House exists in Kelowna and we appeal to the community of Kelowna for help so that our supportive living model of living for older adults continue,” said McReynolds.

In a design rationale proposal submitted by NOvation Architecture on Dec. 8, for the Abbeyfield house, located at 1531 Bernard Ave., seeking to have the property rezoned from RU4b to MF3R, the proposed project calls for a six-storey building with two levels of parking, one of which is below grade, with 51 units comprised of four three-bedroom, 24 two-bedroom, 18 one-bedroom and five studio units.

Forced to move will be 12 tenants currently living in the Abbeyfield House, a communal living facility where bedroom units are rented and facilities are shared, with the society providing self-served breakfast and two home-cooked meals daily.

The new development would transition the site to a rental-only model, essentially switching from affordable housing to market-rate units.

“It stands distinct from the low-income or supportive housing, operating without supportive services and not aligning with a non-profit structure,” stated the report.

In its report, the architectural firm also cites challenges with the Landlord Tenant Act of B.C., operational costs and the age of its board for leading to the discontinuation of the Orchard City Abbeyfield Society and closure of the facility.

The proposal outlines in accordance with Official Community Plan affordable and sustainable housing objectives, 10 per cent three-bedroom units in the mix to accommodate “larger families and diverse household needs while maintaining the project’s density and economic feasibility.”

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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