British Columbia

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie responds to elderly's housing concerns

B.C.'s seniors advocate says affordable housing is the number one concern

Mackenzie says 90 per cent of B.C. seniors live independently, but affordable housing is a growing concern

Isobel Mackenzie was named B.C.'s first Seniors Advocate earlier this year. (Province of Britsh Columbia)

B.C.'s seniors advocate says as she travelled around the province this past year, the number one issue seniors were concerned about was finding affordable and appropriate housing.

Isobel Mackenzie recently issued her report in which she asked provincial government to accept 18 recommendations aimed at making senior's housing more affordable.

She found seniors with low and moderate incomes are struggling to pay for their homes, and B.C. needs to do a better job helping seniors live independently for as long as possible.

"People need to be able to afford where they're living and there needs to be an appropriate place for them to live as they age," she told BC Almanac's Gloria Macarenko.

"When I listened to seniors and visited them in the communities where they live, they were pretty clear that they are concerned about their future housing."

Mackenzie took time to answer questions and concerns of those affected by senior housing issues.

Janet from Vancouver emailed the following question to BC Almanac:

I finally got residence in B.C. housing for seniors that is a subsidized apartment for seniors, however I waited for 11 years for this, is that common?

Mackenzie: Unfortunately it can be the case that there is a wait. The seniors subsidized housing is the best model however. That's where seniors pay 30 per cent of their income toward rent. They'd be left with enough money at the end of the day to meet their basic needs.

Tanner from Victoria:

I'm a grandson and I just stepped into helping my grandmother because she's declined quite significantly and she has her own home. What resources can people find and how to move ahead in this situation?

Mackenzie: My advice is to work with the case manager [with the Vancouver Island Health Authority] or the hospital liaison nurse and advocate for what you think your grandmother would want. Alternatively would be to go into assisted living — which I would push for you to achieve before putting her into residential care."

Susan from West Kootenay:

Unfortunately my grandmother just got notice from home equity that they want to seize her property which is worth 20 times more than what she owes them. She wants to pass away at home and there's no way she could go anywhere else.

Mackenzie: There's no other way to tap into the equity of the home except through commercial reverse mortgages.

I think people aren't understanding the amount of equity that gets eaten up just by paying the interest charges to the bank. It's not money in the pocket for seniors.

I would hope the government would understand it's in their best interest to keep as much money as possible in the hands of seniors to enable them to take care of themselves versus putting it into the banks.

90 per cent of B.C. Seniors live independently. We need to remember that the overwhelming majority of seniors are going to live independently in their own home and they shouldn't be forced out of that because of affordability issues.

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