Seniors building planned

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Soumi Koti of Thunder Bay is embarking on phase two of their building project in response to the growing need for affordable housing for senior citizens.

Already zoned for the construction of a second building, the board has determined the time is right to move ahead with the project. All that’s left to do is to secure at least half the funding.

Ron Oja, Soumi Koti board chairman, says the construction of a second 60-unit building on the property will make a difference in the availability of affordable housing for a growing senior population.

According to a 2021 Statistics Canada report, there are 23,825 seniors who live in Thunder Bay. There are 140 seniors on a waitlist for geared-to-income rental housing for an average wait time of 10 months. The waitlist is administered by the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board. Soumi Koti has 110 applicants waiting between five to seven years for one of their apartments.

Oja says the phase-two building project will provide affordable rental housing for 85 seniors which include 20 on the waitlist for geared-to-income housing.

“The COVID pandemic has hurt a lot of the companies and to have a project like this move forward would be good for contract or sub-trades, all the lumber stores and suppliers,” Oja said. “And over the years, it will be a benefit to the city because there’ll be at least another $100,000 a year of municipal taxes and it will partly fill the void for the growing senior population in Thunder Bay.”

Oja added that as seniors move into apartments like the new Soumi Koti building, their homes will be up for sale which will ultimately put more homes on the market to help alleviate the shortage of them right now.

Planning has been in the works to produce a design proposal, and a class D cost estimate, which is a breakdown of the cost of the whole construction bid. As well, the planning includes a business plan and financial projections. The total cost of construction is estimated at $21.47 million, including the HST.

Oja says they are having “detailed discussions” with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to pursue funding through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund.

“It was determined that a reasonable estimate of the funding potential under this housing fund would be around 51 per cent of construction costs. Soumi Koti is responsible to find funding sources for the other 49 per cent of construction costs before proceeding with this application,” Oja said, outlining the project report.

“We need funding to go ahead and it doesn’t look like any of the municipal, federal or provincial governments want to go ahead with something like this and we’re trying to be proactive in doing this for the growing senior population.”

Government funding through the portable housing benefit helps low-income households with rent in newly constructed housing in Thunder Bay and is paid directly to the household, as opposed to the existing geared-to-income funding programs where subsidies are paid to the housing provider. The funding is administered by the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board or by the provincial government.

The difference between 30 per cent of monthly household income before taxes and 80 per cent of the average market rent in the area determines the amount of the portable housing benefit. Soumi Koti’s affordable housing will be 79 per cent of the market rent, which puts them in line with geared-to-income housing.

The report states that the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board has confirmed that it has sufficient funding to provide portable housing benefits to all low-income senior households in the phase two building.

When built, the second phase building will house 40 one-bedroom apartments and 20 two-bedroom apartments with 36 of them provided for geared-to-income housing for low-income seniors.

It will also incorporate an on-site pharmacy and consultation rooms for health services.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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