North Vancouver lowers age requirement for affordable seniors building over rental vacancies

Kiwanis North Shore Housing Society and the District of North Vancouver are lowering the age requirement to live in affordable housing at Lynn Woods. (Submitted by Stefan Baune - image credit)
Kiwanis North Shore Housing Society and the District of North Vancouver are lowering the age requirement to live in affordable housing at Lynn Woods. (Submitted by Stefan Baune - image credit)

A non-profit organization that operates an affordable seniors' building in the District of North Vancouver is looking for more tenants to rent its below-market units after council unanimously voted earlier this week to lower the age requirement to live there.

Stefan Baune, executive director of the Kiwanis North Shore Housing Society, said the non-profit organization asked council to lower the minimum age for residents from 65 to 55 as it was having challenges finding tenants who met the eligibility criteria for the moderate-income units.

In early August, Baune said 61 units were sitting vacant.

"We are talking about seniors with significant income and the challenge is ... pensioners and people on fixed incomes typically have lower incomes ... so it will be hard for most of them to afford a market rental unit."

Baune said most one-bedroom units in the neighbourhood cost about $1,800 a month.

In 2018, the Kiwanis North Shore Housing Society received $10.6 million from B.C. Housing toward the development of Lynn Woods — a 106-unit, six-storey seniors' building on Whiteley Court. It's the only affordable housing for seniors in the District of North Vancouver funded through the province.

Twenty per cent of its 106 rental units are reserved for people on social assistance with rents capped at $375 a month.

Half of the units are designated at 30 per cent of gross annual income for people making up to $57,000 per year and the remaining suites are the moderate-income units that are capped at $1,570 per month for renters with an annual household income between $57,000 and $77,430.

"We feel that lowering the age requirement ... will help to fill specifically this 30 per cent threshold for the market rents because these units are needed and necessary to cross-subsidize the other portion of the building," Baune said.

Council surprised at vacancy

On Monday, council supported the request to change the bylaw. But some on council were surprised how the non-profit organization received funding for a need that wasn't assessed before development.

"My assumption was that there would be a waiting list for all of the categories, so I was surprised to hear that this one category did not have a waiting list leading up to the opening," said Mayor Mike Little.

He said under B.C. Housing regulations, seniors are anyone over the age of 55.

Submitted by Stefan Baune
Submitted by Stefan Baune

"So you're looking for a person at the tail end of their careers, making a modest moderate income but also not in any way reporting a significant asset," he said.

Coun. Lisa Muri said she's happy to support the organization but is unsure what else can be done if the amendment doesn't help fill the vacant units.

"Over the last 25 years that I've been involved in social housing, we have not been asked to look at a reduction in age ... we've never faced anything like this," Muris told CBC News.

She said the rising cost of living and inflation is contributing to the lack of senior tenants who are able to afford more than $1,500 per month on rent.

"Low-income seniors are very vulnerable and it's been a challenging time for them. We're building a lot of market units that are very, very expensive and it has really impacted housing and it hasn't made it cheaper," she said.