The closure of a private seniors residence in Thurso, Que. is raising concerns about a growing trend in the region that could create a long-term housing problem for some of its most vulnerable residents.
After 22 years, the owners of Domaine du Bel Âge seniors' residence in the west Quebec community of Thurso say they are forced to shut down the home at the end of September.
"We weren't able to go on," said Yvon Doyon, who owns the residence for independent and semi-independent seniors with his wife Francine Ayotte. "My wife is on the verge of burning out."
New regulations that require professionally trained staff and other modifications to meet more stringent Quebec COVID-19 health standards, made it no longer affordable for the small residence with just nine units.
The couple ran the residence out their own home and depended on volunteers to keep it going.
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François Simard, who owns Château Saint-André, a residence for seniors in nearby Saint-André-Avellin, Que. said the closure of Domaine du Bel Âge should be a wake-up call about the inability for small residence owners to make ends meet.
"This is more and more the reality," said Simard, who says since 2014, 530 residences have shut down in Quebec.
A group of small residences in the region signed a letter to the Quebec Families Minister Mathieu Lacombe — who is also the minister responsible for the Outaouais region — listing a number of issues that may cause more closures if not addressed.
Lacombe's office told Radio-Canada that he has shared the grievances with his cabinet colleagues in Quebec City.
Simard said higher operating costs and salaries for professional staff, alongside rent increase limits determined by the Quebec rental board make operations with fewer than 50 units no longer viable businesses.
He said the province should be alarmed, since small residences serve the housing needs for a substantial number of seniors in rural communities across the province.
Doyon suggests the province consider separate requirements for smaller operations, and alternative incentives like higher tax credits for home support for residents — a move that would allow places like Domaine du Bel Âge the ability to charge more to pay for staff.
As for the current residents at Domaine du Bel Âge, social workers have found new homes for everyone for October.