Seniors who live at the private seniors' home (RPA) La Seigneurie de Salaberry in Quebec City are facing eviction. The building they call home was recently sold to a real estate investor from Montreal who plans to convert it into rental condos by the spring.
The residents of the RPA were told they will be able to stay only if they are capable of living autonomously. About 100 seniors currently live there.
"We weren't expecting this," said Nicole Gagné, 76, who has been living at the RPA for seven years. "It's a source of stress for everybody, families too. [People] look panicked."
Gagné said she is lucky because she doesn't require any of the RPA's medical services and can take care of herself, but she said she feels sorry for many of her neighbours for whom that's not the case.
Lucie Bédard, a 70-year-old resident who has stability and heart issues and needs a scooter to get around, is among the residents who need to find a new home.
This will be her second time moving in less than a year — a situation she calls "draining."
"I don't want to move far, it's a headache," she said. "I don't have any immediate family, no partners, no children, I have to organize everything on my own."
Bédard said she loves her place and enjoys the neighbourhood, which is right in the heart of the city and close to many shops and restaurants.
Still, she said it could be worse. One of her neighbours is a 93-year-old woman who just moved to the RPA three weeks ago.
A vulnerable spot
Local community organizations have denounced the decision to close down the RPA, saying it is putting seniors in a vulnerable position.
"Once again, tenants are sacrificed on the altar for real estate profits," said Jonathan Carmichael, the community organizer for the Bureau d'animation et information logement (BAIL), a tenants' rights group.
"It's legal, but it's immoral," said Gagné. "Seniors are like children. If we protect our children, we should protect our seniors too."
Gagné said there should be regulations in place to protect RPA residents from being displaced.
Charles-Olivier P. Carrier, who works for a local committee called the Comité populaire Saint-Jean-Baptiste, echoed Gagné's comment.
"It's something that concerns us a lot, that the rights of the residents of [the RPA] are respected," he said.
He said the situation shows how vulnerable RPA residents are because they don't have adequate government support.
Part of the issue is that RPA owners are struggling to find staff and keep up with rising costs, so they often have no other choice but to sell, said Marc Fortin, the president of the Regroupement québécois des résidences pour aînés (RQRA), which represents some 800 owners of private seniors' residences.
"You should see the number of calls I get from owners and managers of RPAs that are calling me crying, saying 'I can't take care of my elders properly like I used to, I can't find employees, I'm struggling, I'm burnt out,'" he said.
Almost 300 RPAs have closed in the past 18 months, according to Fortin.
Carrier is helping residents like Bédard by providing support and information on what their options are and what recourse is available to them.
The CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, the local health authority, said it has been aware of the closure since Aug. 9 and is helping the residents who need to relocate.
Representatives from the health authority met with the residents last week. Another information session took place on Thursday.
Bédard said she was told the nearby public health clinic will also be providing assistance.
The Seigneurie de Salaberry will officially close on May 9, 2023, so residents have some time to make arrangements, she said.
A history of evictions
The new owner of the building, Henry Zavriyev, is a young investor in his 20s who has a history of buying apartment buildings, kicking tenants out and renovating the units to rent them at a higher price.
He told Radio-Canada he heard about the RPA from a real estate agent.
"It's really hard for RPAs at the moment. An agent called me. They know I'm buying RPAs. I was told the building had lost its right to operate as an RPA in the last year," he said.
Groupe Magistral, the company that owns and manages the Seigneurie de Salaberry, declined multiple requests for comment.
Zavriyev said the building's 150 units would be preserved and would simply undergo some renovations to modernize them. He said he would assist the residents of the RPA as much as he can.
"Most of the people who currently live in the home are autonomous, so we're happy for them to stay," he said. "It's a beautiful building, but it needs love."
Zavriyev has also bought two other RPAs in Montreal, Mont-Carmel and le Château Beaurivage, which he plans to convert.