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Could a seniors' residence be turned into housing? Nova Scotia is going to try

The provincial government is hoping buildings that are no longer suitable for seniors may find a second life helping alleviate the current housing crisis. (CBC - image credit)
The provincial government is hoping buildings that are no longer suitable for seniors may find a second life helping alleviate the current housing crisis. (CBC - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government is asking the owners of nursing homes that are slated to be replaced to look at whether those buildings might be converted into living space for others.

The provincial government is hoping buildings that are no longer suitable to house seniors, because they lack individual washrooms, may find a second life helping alleviate the current housing crisis.

Last week the CEO of Mountains and Meadows Care Group, Joyce d'Entremont, told a legislature committee her board of directors had struck a committee to examine whether Mountain Lea Lodge could be converted to a housing complex, once the 107 seniors who live there now move into a new facility in 2025

"The [government] has been very generous in investing a lot of dollars in a new boiler room, flooring and new windows, a new roof, etcetera," said d'Entremont. "So the building is not good to serve seniors, it's not a good nursing home but it could be repurposed for something else.

"We're very, very interested in seeing what we could do with that."

Joyce D'Entremont is the CEO of Mountains and Meadows Care Group.
Joyce D'Entremont is the CEO of Mountains and Meadows Care Group.

Joyce D'Entremont is the CEO of Mountains and Meadows Care Group. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Speaking to CBC News after the meeting, d'Entremont said at the top of the list was housing.

"We know there's a housing crisis," said d'Entremont. "A lot of our international staff can't find places to rent, so I am sure if it was transitioned into affordable housing that all the spaces would be rented out quite quickly."

Preliminary discussions

Although she cautioned discussions, so far, were preliminary, company representatives had started meeting with officials from the municipality and the province.

Vicki Elliott-Lopez is executive director of housing for the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Vicki Elliott-Lopez is executive director of housing for the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Vicki Elliott-Lopez is executive director of housing for the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing. (Communications Nova Scotia)

One of those was the executive director of housing for the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Vicki Elliott-Lopez. She said some seniors homes, such as Mountain Lea Lodge in Bridgetown, might be worth investing in.

"We want to look at any opportunity for any building that could be a potential for housing," Elliott-Lopez told CBC News. "One hundred per cent, especially now in a housing crisis."

"Ultimately, it does depend on the condition of the facility and it will depend on whether or not it's a worthwhile investment to convert it. Because if there are larger issues, it may not be economically viable. There could be technical issues, layout design and so on."

"The great thing about long-term care facilities is that they're already built for 24/7 occupancy. They've got egress, they've got everything required," said Elliott-Lopez.

Municipal councillor for the Municipality of the County of Annapolis calls the possible re-use of Mountain Lea Lodge "phenomenal"
Municipal councillor for the Municipality of the County of Annapolis calls the possible re-use of Mountain Lea Lodge "phenomenal"

Dustin Enslow, municipal councillor for the Municipality of the County of Annapolis, calls the possible reuse of Mountain Lea Lodge a "phenomenal" idea. (Candace Enslow)

The local municipal councillor Dustin Enslow called the possibility of turning the building into an apartment complex a "phenomenal" idea.

"It is in good shape, and with being in such good shape, it's an easy transition to residential or commercial with minor alterations," said Enslow. "My concern when the announcement first came that we were getting a new Mountain Lea, a  new facility. I didn't want to see this go vacant."

The provincial government has promised to replace 46 existing seniors homes by 2032.

It has already chipped in to convert a former hotel into apartments in Pictou County and is helping pay for a similar project in the Town of Lunenburg.  It is also providing funds to turn the Tatamagouche Elementary School into a 21-unit apartment building, 12 of those considered affordable.

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