British Columbia

15 new affordable units give Victoria seniors chance to be more independent

The Cool Aid Society is opening 15 new self-contained units in its Mount Edwards Court development to house low-income seniors.

Housing agency says older people are getting priced out of the housing market and ending up in shelters

Shawn Kuin says he can see the Governor General's mansion in Victoria from the window of his new apartment. (Deborah Wilson / CBC)

Sixteen years ago, Shawn Kuin was homeless, working winters in hotel construction or other site jobs that gave him a place to stay.

Now, the 62-year-old has his own apartment with a view of the Lieutenant Governor's mansion in Victoria.

"Having a regular place to stay and meals, I could work," he said. "I've been able to get full-time employment."

Kuin is one of the first tenants to move into the third floor of Mount Edwards Court on Vancouver Street. For years, the Cool Aid Society, a non-profit housing agency, has been operating a shelter for the homeless in the re-purposed seniors care facility.

The 15 new affordable units Cool Aid is opening on the third floor are fully independent units, including their own kitchens and bathrooms, that have been built specifically for people aged 55 and older.

"We have the chance to get some people on fixed income into apartments that are between $750 and $900 a month and they can live there for as long as they need," said Don McTavish, the agency's director of housing and shelters.

Shawn Kuin stands in the kitchen of his new self-contained apartment on the third floor of Mount Edwards Court. (Deborah Wilson / CBC)

Kuin had previously been living on the second floor of the building, where units are not self contained and meals are provided and staff offer support 24 hours a day.

With the move upstairs, he's gained new purpose and independence. 

"What my property manager says is, I'm giving back. I am able to afford to live on the jobs that I'm doing."

Listen to Shawn Kuin describe his new apartment:

The Cool Aid Society is announcing the completion of 15 affordable units for independent seniors, renting for $700 to $950 a month. They're located in the Mount Edwards Court, at Vancouver and Rockland Street. The CBC's Deborah Wilson took a look at the new units with on of the new tenants, Shawn Kuin. 6:23

McTavish says unaffordability in Victoria is becoming more of a crisis for older people.

"We're just seeing more and more seniors," he said. "It seems like every year we get more folks coming in who have been on fixed income and they're just getting priced out of the market." 

Six tenants have moved into the third floor units so far. McTavish says some of them are without pensions and were already struggling to find affordable housing on incomes from entry-level jobs.

He adds that as the population ages, the gap between seniors' income and the cost of new apartments is growing.

Listen to Don McTavish's full interview with On The Island:

For years the Victoria Cool Aid Society has been providing shelter and supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. But 15 new apartments now being offered in the Mount Edwards building on Vancouver Street represent a new approach by the non-profit housing agency. They have been built specifically to prevent seniors from becoming homeless in the first place. To find out more, Gregor Craigie spoke with Don McTavish, Director of Housing & Shelters for Victoria's Cool Aid Society. 7:23

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