South Peace News
A plan to expand Villa Beausejour seniors’ lodge in Falher has doubled to 20 enhanced living units from 10.
Heart River Housing CAO Lindsay Pratt announced the plan while speaking to Big Lakes County council at its regular meeting Jan. 11.
“We plan to break ground in May,” Pratt said.
The villa currently has 69 units.
Doubling the size of the project and the inflation factor increases the cost to an estimated $11.5 million from a 2020 budget of $3.5 million for 10 units.
Enhanced units is a unique option for seniors who are currently independent, but desire to have ready access to additional amenities and services, easing the transition.
Heart River reviewed and updated the needs assessment with the most current 2021 census data.
“As a result, the board determined expanding the project to 20 units is appropriate to meet both seniors’ housing needs, but also anticipating continued instability within the construction industry and capital funding program offerings,” Pratt said.
“Since the initial community engagement in 2020, the waiting list is now 22 units and the project is fully committed.”
Heart River has taken initial steps to secure money for the project. Heart River will apply to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for a co-investment grant of $1 million.
It will also take $3.2 million from its reserves.
Pratt told council Heart River is seeking loans from one or more Heart Rivr member municipalities or directly through a lender.
Heart River has also applied for a grant from a provincial partnership program.
“HRH has been stress-testing the project on its own merits and also its overall portfolio impact,” Pratt said.
With the current 11-year mortgage on the expansion at Pleasant- view Lodge in High Prairie units, debt-serving costs are $550,000 a year.
Heart River anticipates having to borrow up to $7.5 million for the Falher project, with annual debt payments targeted at $750,000 using current borrowing measures.
Resulting combined debt servicing payments are estimated at $1,125,000 per year.
The Falher project will start after an addition of 20 enhanced units is completed at Pleasant- view.
“The final cost of the Pleasantview Lodge came in at $7.9 million, about five per cent over budget,” Pratt said.
The Pleasantview project has served as a good gauge in future construction, he said.
“In preparing for the scheduled capital project in Falher, lessons learned from the High Prairie project were incorporated into planning,” Pratt said.
To meet growing needs for seniors’ housing in the service area in the coming years, Heart River proposes to increase annual requisitions from its 11 municipalities.
“We are asking all municipalities to pass a motion supporting Heart River Housing’s directions and requisition request and sign a letter of understanding,” Pratt asked.
“HRH feels this is the only way we can keep seniors living in the region that they have built.”
He noted it will help sustain communities.
“With sound financial planning, HRH can supply seniors with the housing options they need so they don’t have to move to urban areas like Edmonton or Calgary because of the lack of housing within the region,” Pratt said.
Pratt and the HRH board also asked municipalities to contact their local MLA to help Heart River make the government aware of local housing issues.
Pratt noted Heart River has accommodations that serve about 24 per cent of seniors aged 80 years and older in its service region, which is right on the provincial average.
Without any further space and the growing seniors population, that number would drop to just eight per cent.