Question re: Seniors housing - April 23, 2013

Mr. Silver:    In the Yukon Party’s 2011 budget, $2.6 million was set aside to begin work on the proposed Abbeyfield housing project for seniors in Whitehorse. Abbeyfield Houses Society of Canada is a non-profit housing organization for seniors. Back in 2011, an official in the Yukon Housing Corporation described Abbeyfield as one of the most promising solutions for people who still want to live on their own, but would benefit from some form of community living. Since that impressive announcement two years ago, this project seems to have ground to a bit of a halt. Is the government still working on this project, or has it abandoned it?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    The Yukon government and the Yukon Housing Corporation remain very much committed to the development of an Abbeyfield-type seniors housing facility for the Yukon. Obviously, this will be able to complement some of the other independent-living seniors facilities we currently have in our portfolio, such as Alexander Street that we are looking to develop.

I know that the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion recently received funding to look into an assisted living type of model for seniors housing, so that funding was received through the community development fund. I look forward to their deliberations on this as well as we look to add an Abbeyfield or assisted living type of housing development to our housing stock here in the territory.

Mr. Silver:    I appreciate the answer from the minister. Two years ago, this was a major announcement from the Yukon Party, and it appears to have been dropped. It’s not mentioned in the recently announced strategic plan, for example. The 2011 budget speech said, “plans are underway for a new seniors Abbeyfield project in Whitehorse.” This is a pre-election promise, and I hope that it hasn’t fallen by the wayside.

According to the 2012 annual report of the Yukon Housing Corporation, at least $270,000 has been spent on this project to date. The demand for this type of facility certainly hasn’t decreased in the last two years, and in fact it probably has increased.

Can the minister tell Yukoners how much money has been spent on this project to date?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    While I don’t have the specific number the member opposite is looking for, perhaps I’ll be able to provide that when we debate the Yukon Housing Corporation’s departmental budget. Again, with respect to the Abbeyfield-type project, we certainly remain committed to adding that type of seniors housing to our portfolio.

One of the challenges with normal Abbeyfield projects is that they’re usually financially self-sufficient, so we want to ensure that we have the appropriate number of units and the society or the organization that is the proponent of that project is able to sustain the operation and maintenance aspects of the facility.

Again, through the strategic plan, perhaps this is better identified as one of the partnerships the Housing Corporation is seeking. In past weeks we’ve seen a number of different aspects announced with various partnerships, such as the expression of interest put out for staff housing in DawsonCity.

Again to the member opposite, we do remain committed to providing this type of housing for our seniors here in the territory.

Mr. Silver:    I’m glad to hear that from the minister. The Abbeyfield concept has been referred to as a minimum assisted/shared seniors living quarters. There continues to be a demand for this type of housing in the Yukon. The Housing Corporation has done very good work in the last number of years in building new social housing. It has done a good job working on a number of projects for seniors. This was a good project when it was announced, and it remains a good project today. Perhaps this would be a good candidate for the millions of dollars the government receives from Ottawa for housing but refuses to spend.

Is there a future for an Abbeyfield project in the Yukon or has it been taken off the list of options for seniors housing — and I mean specifically the Abbeyfield project?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    As mentioned in a previous response, the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has received funding through the community development fund to investigate opportunities surrounding an assisted living complex for seniors, which would be very similar to what an Abbeyfield complex entails. As I mentioned, it’s envisioned with an Abbeyfield project that it would be self-sufficient. The original concept that we were looking at was for 14 units and we want to ensure that if that number of units isn’t self-sufficient or if the land that was set aside to build that size of complex can’t be self-sufficient that we look at other options, so that’s what we’re doing. We do, of course, as I’ve mentioned in previous answers, remain committed to this project. It was part of our platform. We just want to make sure that the long-term O&M aspects of the project are covered after the initial capital investment is made.