As we age: Seniors challenged to find housing, report confirms

Vacancy rate for independent living spaces located in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows dropped in 2014.

Isobel Mackenzie

Isobel Mackenzie

Seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows who are searching for affordable or even available rental housing in the area could be having a harder time than in years past.

According to a 2014 provincial seniors’ housing report released from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the vacancy rate for independent living spaces located in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows dropped from 19.5 per cent in 2013 to 10.7 per cent the following year.

One-bedroom units made up the biggest component of that percentage, dropping from a 19 per cent vacancy rate in 2013 to 10.3 per cent last year.

The report defines senior independent living spaces as being located in complexes where the majority of residents are aged 65 years or older, on-site meal services are provided and the residents receive less than 1.5 hours of health care per day.

No other provincial region listed in the CMHC report showed a similar shift in seniors’ independent space vacancies. However, the provincial demand for seniors’ housing increased enough that the overall B.C. vacancy rate dropped from 11.4 per cent in 2013 to 10.9 per cent last year.

Canada’s first and B.C. seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie recently released her own more extensive report that was published following a review involving hundreds of seniors from across the province. It included 18 different recommendations, grouped into three different housing categories, for making seniors’ housing more affordable, accessible and available.

“Revise the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters Program to align with the subsidized housing model of tenants paying no more than 30 per cent of their income for shelter costs,” was one recommendation from her report’s independent housing category.

Raise the minimum amount of income with which a resident of subsidized assisted living is left with from $325 to $500, was a recommendation from the assisted-living category.

And asking the government, “Commit 95 per cent of all residential care beds in the province be single-room occupancy with ensuite bath” by 2025, a recommendation from the residential care category.

According to Mackenzie’s report, the median income for seniors in B.C. is $24,000. As a result, 36 per cent of those surveyed fall into this income class and believed they will be forced to move in the future due to affordability challenges.

In a statement released from the Ministry of Health, Minister Terry Lake wrote, “The ministry shares the senior’s advocate’s commitment to high-quality patient-centered seniors’ care, and we appreciate her work in examining concerns raised by older adults. This is exactly why we established this office.”

Lake stated further the ministry would act on the majority of the report’s recommendations that pertain to the Ministry of Health.””We will use the findings and recommendations in this report to guide the work we are doing to provide more patient-centered care and integrated supports for seniors in the community and at home where they live.”

Mackenzie said she anticipated the ministry would need time to analyze the costs of her recommendations but was confident the provincial government would expedite their findings.

“I hope we will hear something back from government, and I intend to make sure this happens in the months ahead,” she said.