Heart River Housing (HRH) received news from the Alberta government March 9, they will be receiving some funding to assist in the building of new units at the Villa Beausejour in Falher.
The funding will come from the Affordable Housing Partnership Program in the amount of nearly $1.2 million. The money will be used to help offset some of the costs associated with the new seniors’ apartments HRH planned to construct this year.
Total budget for the new Falher Enhanced Lodge is anticipated to be $11.25 million, a figure that was established based on schematic designs for the facility. HRH is currently finalizing the design phase of construction, and they hope to go to tender in the first part of April. Ground-breaking is anticipated to commence in May.
“Our application was one of 56 in the province, so we’re very fortunate to receive this assistance,” says HRH CAO Lindsay Pratt.
“This contribution will help us get a co-investment loan from CMHC which will be two to 2.5 per cent lower than the bank rate. This could mean savings of over $1 million in interest over 20 years,” he adds.
Pratt explains the near $1.2 million will also help HRH lower the total amount they have to borrow, after considering HRH reserves that will be utilized on the project and the provincial grant, to between $7-8 million.
He notes that as soon as the apartment is complete, they anticipate all units will be rented by seniors in the community.
“We currently have 33 people on our Falher waitlist, so we anticipate the new build will be filled immediately,” says Pratt.
“We are going to be building a 20-unit building, with nine one-bedroom units and 11 two-bedroom units.”
Falher’s addition requires a land lease to be acquired and permission to build onto the Villa Beausejour.
The Province owns the Villa Beausejour, but HRH will own the new building. Approvals from the Province are taking more time that initially anticipated by HRH.
HRH currently houses 24 per cent of all seniors in the region over the age of 80. Pratt says there are approximately 900 seniors over that age in our region as of 2021, but by the time 2046 rolls around those numbers will be well over 2,400. Because of this anticipated increase in numbers, HRH has created a strategic plan to ensure future demand is met.
“Through our housing needs study, the senior age group numbers increase drastically until 2046,” explains Pratt, noting they have been creating a plan to increase seniors’ living facilities in multiple communities in the region.
“The new enhanced lodge apartments will also be closer to market rent, HRH currently have some mid to higher income seniors in our facilities. As we are the only option in the community, we see these higher income seniors moving into the close to market units thus this will open more existing units for low-income seniors. We are hoping to help both seniors that require minimal assistance and those who require additional assistance find homes they can transition into.”
HRH also added 20 units in High Prairie last year, which had 32 applications prior to the building being
completed. The building was ready for occupancy in November 2022, and all units were filled within the first two months.
Pratt notes that the facility in High Prairie cost just under $8 million, and a relatively identical unit in Falher will cost $11.2 million. This indicates the need to complete additional units prior to costs skyrocketing even more.
“On average across Canada, 24 per cent of seniors live in a lodge-type facility, if we don’t step up and build within our region seniors will move to the larger centers, and away from the communities they built, away from their family support,” says Pratt.
“We plan to do a full housing needs study in the Valleyview and Municipal District of Greenview starting in June, with a target to be completed in December. From the information that is collected in that study, we can plan our next steps.”