A group of seniors in Atikokan want to take an apartment shortage problem into their own hands.

The chair of the town's seniors' forum, Alex Broski, said many older homeowners are finding their houses too much to manage.

mi-alex-and-ethel-broski-30

Alex Broski, pictured with his wife Ethel, is encouraging fellow seniors in Atikokan to build and manage their own apartment building. (Supplied: Alex and Ethel Broski)

"They are at the age where they would give up their home if there was an apartment to go to," he said.

But Broski said the waiting lists are long for seniors' units in Atikokan, so some people have reluctantly moved to larger centres like Thunder Bay to find suitable apartments.

He said that's not an option he and his wife want to take.   "We have our family here," he said. "Many other families have their families here [too] and they certainly don't want to leave."

Broski said members of the seniors' forum started talking about the issue a couple of years ago. "We have a good active group and they said, 'we should start  looking at seniors' apartments, because if we don't, nobody else will."

Seniors to build own apartment complex

That's when Garry McKinnon, executive director of the Atikokan Economic Development Corporation, got involved.

mi-garry-mckinnon-300

Atikokan Economic Development Corporation head Garry McKinnon says provincial and federal agencies aren't in the business of building seniors' housing anymore. (Supplied)

He said the corporation looked to other levels of government for help, but found none.

"We've talked to federal agencies, provincial agencies," McKinnon said. "Really, they're not in the game of building seniors' apartments anymore."

Working with Broski and the seniors' forum, the economic development corporation came up with a plan for seniors to create housing themselves.

McKinnon suggested they form a not-for-profit, tenant-owned housing corporation. His vision is to build a 24-unit seniors complex, with each tenant investing $25,000 up front. That total of $600,000 would form the down payment for the building's mortgage and construction.

Broski is signing on to the project and said so far, 14 others have also committed.

He said with homes valued at least $100,000 in Atikokan, the money shouldn't be too hard to get. "The whole theory behind this is that you would sell your house ... and you should be good to go."

'No white knights to solve housing problem'

McKinnon said he has spoken to a local bank, as well as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, to determine if they would consider financing the project and guarantee the mortgage if enough seniors buy in.

He said he needs about 24 seniors to invest in order to move forward -- and is optimistic that will happen. 

"It's very much taking control of your own destiny," McKinnon said. "There's no white knights to come and solve this housing problem, so in typical northern fashion, you ...solve it yourself."