Quadra’s hopes for more affordable and seniors’ housing

'We don’t want to be warehoused, and we still want to be contributing to society.'

A long-planned and desperately-needed seniors’ and affordable housing facility for Quadra Island is continuing to inch its way closer to becoming reality.

“The housing situation is not very good on the island,” according to Karen Gair, director and treasurer with the Quadra Circle Community Connections Society, one of the partners involved in the housing initiative. “There are lots of people who are living in their campers and that kind of thing, because they can’t get any accommodations, and if they can, it’s too expensive for them.”

“We have close to 70 people who are going to need housing here in the next five years. There are certainly some seniors who need it tomorrow,” agrees Maureen McDowell, president of the organization.

The issues with the lack of housing on Quadra – especially affordable housing – are varied and complicated.

“There are restrictions for where development can take place on the island,” McDowell says, “because we do want to keep it a rural feel. People can (only) develop here in the Q-Cove area, and in parts of the Heriot Bay area.”

Which is why they are hoping to secure a parcel of land in Quathiaski Cove where they could build a seniors’ complex.

“There’s a huge housing crunch for seniors – especially the low to moderate income ones – because Campbell River doesn’t have a heck of a lot to offer, and there aren’t the assisted living or supported housing beds that there should be being built, so that’s prompted us to partner with Quadra Island Seniors’ Housing Society (who operate five units on the Island in the form of two duplexes and a single unit) to look at how to develop more mixed-income housing here in Quathiaski Cove.”

The vision the organizers have for addressing this need is a supported living seniors’ residence – made up of 10 to 12 suites in a central building with small cabin-type residences surrounding it – on part of the acreage adjacent to the Q-Cove Centre.

“The residence will accommodate single seniors and couples who need meals, housekeeping and minimal personal care provided by a live-in staff person,” reads their proposal. Island Health nurses and other caregivers would visit periodically to provide additional personal and medical care.

McDowell says the idea is to surround the seniors’ facility with other housing so that it is integrated within the wider community, rather than produce a “seniors’ ghetto,” where they are segregated from the rest of the community.

“Some of the traditional models of nursing homes are not of interest to us. We don’t want to be warehoused, and we still want to be contributing to society.”

The sale of the surrounding market housing will also help financially support the seniors’ centre.

And the proposal has the backing of at least one politician with some pull.

“Many seniors cannot continue to maintain their larger properties and wish to move into an area that is walkable and more social and will provide for all of their daily needs, from independent living right through assisted living,” wrote Jim Abram, Regional District Director representing Quadra, in a letter of support last year backing the project when it was still just a nugget of an idea.

“This project will do just that and allow us to maintain a society of ‘elders’ that can help us to learn from their varied life experiences. I think this proposed project has great potential to provide safe, affordable housing for our aging seniors and also for our young families, so they can stay on Quadra and continue to contribute to our community.

Over 100 Quadra Islanders attended a meeting Nov. 2 at the Quadra Recreation Centre to hear about the current state of the project.

David Rousseau, an architectural and green-building consultant who volunteered his services to the Joint Committee working on the project, presented the community with his three-phase model for how the area could be developed gradually over time, emphasizing the sensitive ecological development that will need to occur to preserve parkland and riparian protected areas.

Abram was on hand to again express his support for the project, and he brought along Ross Hotsenpiller, SAO of the Strathcona Regional District (SRD), who explained how the SRD could partner with the project, possibly providing Park funds down the road to help with parkland development within and surrounding the facility, as well as expediting the procedures for rezoning.

John Jessup, the committee’s development consultant, told the crowd that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and BC Housing can assist with grants for pre-planning studies and in getting preferred-rate, insured mortgage financing for construction for the social housing component.

“If someone has lived here most of their lives, and they get to the point where they need more services,” Gair says, “they don’t want to go to Campbell River. That’s not home. They want to be here with their friends.”

“Some of the seniors who have had to go into homes in Campbell River really find they don’t get to keep those connections, because the ferry is a barrier, in a sense,” adds McDowell. “As people get older, it gets harder and harder for them to get motivated enough to go across to Campbell River to get the care they need.”

Well, soon they may not have to.

For more information on the project, contact McDowell at 250-285-2221 or by email at mcboas@gicable.com