Ottawa

Seniors group pitching a home for all ages in Old Ottawa South

A seniors advocacy group in Old Ottawa South is proposing a multi-generational housing project in the neighbourhood that would bring young and old together under one roof.

Multi-generational housing proposal would place young tenants, seniors under one roof

The multi-generational co-living model, which has been successful in other countries, allows seniors who need some help to continue living independently. In return, younger tenants receive a break on the rent. (Alexander Raths/Shutterstock)

A seniors advocacy group in Old Ottawa South is proposing a multi-generational housing project in the neighbourhood that would bring young and old together under one roof.

"It broadens both our horizons. It's healthier. Just imagine if you have a young neighbour who knows about computers and apps," said widow and grandmother of five Anna Cuylits, co-founder of Senior Watch Old Ottawa South (SWOOS).

The building would include a mix of standard apartments and co-living units, with a common area on the main floor. The co-living units would feature a shared kitchen, dining room and sitting room, but each tenant would have a private bedroom and bathroom.

Anna Cuylits is co-founder of Senior Watch Old Ottawa South, an advocacy group that grew out of the Ottawa South Community Association. (Luke Sears/OSCA)

Co-living provides accommodation for people who want to live at least part of their lives communally, whether out of choice or necessity. Seniors who need occasional support would benefit from sharing space with younger tenants, and the younger tenants would save on rent.

"Students, for example, would do chores in return for a reasonable rent," Cuylits suggested. "It could be walking the dog, going shopping, maybe making a meal or doing the dishes. Light housekeeping work. It's almost like what a friend would do." 

Cuylits points out seniors aren't the only ones who may feel isolated. Lonely singles of any age could find community in a co-living arrangement, she said.

SWOOS has published an online survey meant to gauge interest in a future development. 

Co-housing or co-living is a movement that took off in the 1970s in Denmark. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

The group has even pitched the idea to Dominic Santaguida of Preeminent Developments, the company behind the proposed redevelopment of 1050-1060 Bank St., currently home to Thai restaurant Siam Kitchen, consignment shop Boomerang Kids and The Barley Mow pub. 

"It could be viable from our standpoint," said Santaguida, who also owns Ottawa's Vittoria Trattoria restaurants. "We are looking at the dollars and cents of it."

Santaguida thinks there would be demand by tenants "who want to stay in the neighbourhood where they've spent the bulk of their lives."

SWOOS has already approached Preeminent Developments, co-owner of the property at 1050-1060 Bank Street. The company recently submitted a formal development proposal to the city. This image a preliminary design concept. (KWC Architects Inc.)

SWOOS isn't ruling out other locations, including a "pie in the sky" idea to develop the eyesore that was once West Coast Video at 1123 Bank St.

The group is also imagining a public space for community meetings, retail or a restaurant on the main floor, as well as a gym, health clinic or even a child-care centre. 

"As I get older, I just love seeing little kids. I find them so much cuter than when I was so busy with working and raising my own kids," Cuylits said.

Cuylits said the development would also provide options for empty-nesters looking to downsize but remain in Old Ottrawa South, where there is "not much in the way of rental accommodation."

The SWOOS plan would see people of different generations living in the same space, with shared common spaces for activities such as exercise. (CBC)

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