News: Valemount Cares

BC Housing gives Valemount Cares the green light

It is with great excitement that the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society shares the news that Hon. David Eby, BC Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, announced on June 4 that Valemount Cares is one of 47 projects announced by the province to be selected through Building BC’s Community Housing Fund.
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021AG0084-001085

BC Housing’s approval is a major milestone and gives us reason to celebrate. The province will fund the residential portion of the facility. This approval paves the way for other federal agencies like CMHC and Federation of Canadian Municipalities to fund the residential and supportive living spaces in the development.

In the coming weeks, we will have a sense of timelines for construction as we sit down with BC Housing to learn about their design and development approval processes. We will be leaning heavily on our strong development consultant and architect team from David Nairne & Associates who have guided and developed many housing projects in the small municipalities and First Nations communities and are well versed with BC Housing’s guidelines and approvals.

If it weren’t for council and staff at the Village of Valemount, we wouldn’t even be in the position to consider a new development. By providing land, finding grants for a new lift station to service the property and allocating staff resources to move this project along, we have a strong partner and ally. We’re also grateful to local groups and individuals who have supported the project through money, letters, sweat and prayers.

We also have a lot to do ahead. While the Village and BC Housing have confirmed their roles in this partnership for the bricks and mortar portion of Valemount Cares, we also need that from other funders and fundraise for a Supportive Living facility for seniors. We will be working with Northern Health and other service providers to deliver supportive living services at affordable costs for the residents of Valemount Cares.

If you want to stay updated, involved, donate, or have questions about the new seniors’ facility, you can contact the Project Lead Rashmi at [email protected] or 250 566 1302.

Community Initiatives funding approved for Valemount Cares

We’re thrilled that the CBT Adjudication Committee prioritized our project as #1 and the online public ranked us just behind the Bike Park, putting us first overall.

At their April 1 meeting, the committee recommended that all the projects be funded. More details here. And on April 13 meeting, council stamped their approval as well. We’re expecting a response from BC Housing to our application to develop 16 residential units in mid May.

Thanks to everyone who took time to complete the online survey for CBT Community Initiatives. Congrats to all the projects, and we’re thrilled that switching to online voting only this year did not impact the project because of the seniors who might have not been able to vote.

With CBT Funding, we will

  • Complete site assessments and have the assistance of consultants, architects and engineers to make grant applications to CMHC and other funders to develop the common areas.
  • Complete a technical and financial Feasibility Study to develop a Net Zero Ready building seeking matching funds from Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund.

We received a lot of positive feedback and support from the public during the CBT Community Initiatives public input process. However, some comments indicate that the project details may not be clear to everyone, so we wanted to respond to your questions and concerns.

  1. Why should we pay more outside consultants for studies that may be shelved?

This funding is not solely going to outside consultants but paying a local project coordinator, project architects and the development consultant who have already been hired to develop detailed building and funding plans for the Valemount Cares facility.

The CBT funding will allow additional work for a net zero ready building. 

  • The study will explore design improvements, their costs and the operational savings to implement different features to achieve a Net Zero Ready building. This will be done with the help of architects, engineers, geotechnical studies, energy modellers, etc.
  • The study is necessary to apply for federal capital grants for energy efficient buildings from two funders, and will also subsidize the site investigations required by BC Housing for the housing development.
  • The gain in capital funding through new grants would be significant ($1.5 to $3 million). It would reduce the mortgage financing required outside of grants and make the project more viable to public funders.
  • A Net Zero ready building will reduce operating costs for the building.

The study will enhance the work already underway. Included in the scope of the study is an implementation plan for funding and infrastructure improvements for the building to operate off the grid in 10 years.

2. Will this be glorified condos? Will the units be affordable?

BC Housing and CMHC would require that the rents be affordable – ranging from just below market rent to deeply subsidized rents of $375. The operating agreement with BC Housing that will provide subsidies to maintain operations requires that rent is kept affordable and geared to income. Without the operating subsidies, the rent needed for a residential unit would be at least twice the maximum affordable rent.

3. I still think the old school lot on 5th Avenue is a better location.

The fifth Avenue lot is owned privately. If the owner was inclined to sell and we were to magically find the money to buy the land, it would add to the cost of the project and make the project less viable to public funders.

The Ash Street lot is owned by the Village who has committed to the seniors’ development. They’re willing to fund a new lift station from additional grants to service this parcel. This is huge and we’re grateful to have the Village support behind the project. Plans for this parcel include other affordable housing developments. Being next to the high school also makes it more stimulating for seniors who want to engage with youth and neighbours, and to attend events at the Community Theatre.

4. Supportive living is a vague term. Why is it not assisted living? We need a facility with medical services.

This is a residential project with services. The goal is to provide affordable housing and services for seniors to continue living in the community with more supports – meals, housekeeping, laundry, personal care and activities. This is why we have planned an additional 2700 sq ft of common areas which fall outside BC Housing’s ‘residential units only’ scope.

Supportive Living is providing the above services. Home care will still be available to residents through the Health Clinic.

To be called Assisted Living (versus Supportive Living), BC Ministry of Health has to determine there is a need for subsidized units in Valemount and that Northern Health should partner (with funding and/or staffing) to do that. We have initiated conversations with Northern Health and they are in the midst of determining seniors’ needs for the whole region. So we’re staying optimistic.

By thinking ahead and having a building ready to provide services, we are in a better position to engage with Northern Health to provide Assisted Living.

  1. Supportive Living – Independent units with Services (above) in partnership with existing service providers.
  2. Assisted Living – The same services provided in partnership with Northern Health to subsidize fees for those who need it.
  3. Long Term Care – This would be a new building with onsite medical services. This requires a new conversation with Ministry of Health, after we have assisted living approved by them.

BC Ministry of Health definitions for Supportive Living and Assisted Living

Our end goal is long term care. We have designed the site plan for that and are taking the necessary steps to get there. Long term care is provided or funded by Ministry of Health and we have chosen this strategy to piggyback on funding available for affordable housing so we can first provide residential services to seniors who can live somewhat independently with more supports. We will develop long term care in the next phase after demonstrating that the society is capable of delivering services to seniors.

The pandemic has shown that seniors in large facilities have been most affected in terms of health, safety and isolation. We’re hoping this will make a good case for Valemount Cares to get to our end goal sooner.

We’ve developed our plans in consultation with the community and service providers and open to more inputs.

If you have suggestions and the energy to advance the project to get “care” quickly, we would love to have you on our Care Committee. If you have more questions, feel free to email Rashmi at [email protected] or call 250 566 1302.

Major Milestone: Rezoning and Concept Drawings for new development complete

What started as a bunch of keen women lobbying council to set aside money from Community Initiatives in November 2019 for a seniors project has now led to Council allocating a portion of land south of the high school on Ash Street for a multi-phase seniors development.

On December 8, 2020, council approved rezoning for the parcel. They have committed to finding funding and working with the society to extend sewer to the property, which was a bit of a hiccup, to say the least. Senior staff and planner Megan Vicente have stepped up recognizing there’s a need and an opportunity. So we’re truly grateful for that.

With concept drawings, the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society will seek funding from various agencies. We’ll submitted our application to BC Housing in early January for 16 independent units. Since programs and services are needed as much as housing for seniors, we are seeking additional grants and fundraising for the common areas.

These plans have come together with input from our seniors (2019 Housing & Care Needs Survey, 2020 Valentine’s Tea event, July 2020 Public Input Meetings) and meetings with stakeholders like Northern Health staff, home care workers, Robson Valley Community Services and Valemount Seniors’ Club to name a few organizations.

We’ve identified two phases to the development – the first phase is Independent Living enhanced by services like housekeeping, meals and activities. The future phase will be long term care.

Check this video to walk through the proposed building.

For the first phase, we have decided on Lounge, Dining Room, Kitchen, Multi-purpose Room for Services/ Activities, Lift Tub, Office and Guest Room as the extra non-residential spaces. The plan also includes an outdoor covered walkway with a gazebo. (Please note that these drawings were updated and will undergo revisions to meet the funder’s guidelines.)

We know finding grants to cover the extra spaces will be a challenge, so we’ve set a fundraising goal of $100,000 to show community support and match grants. Many thanks to Valemount Secondary School PAC, Valemount Seniors Club (Ellen Duncan in particular) and donations from numerous individuals. We have $16,351 – as of January 2021. Amazing!

We have far to go and since it’s coming to the end of the year, you can donate online via PayPal Giving Fund or GoFundMe Charity (see link below) and instantly get a tax receipt. Or you can contact Rashmi Narayan at 250 566 1302 or Ellen Duncan at 250 566 3045 to donate by cash or cheque and get a charitable tax receipt as well.

Please Donate

We’re so excited that in just over a year, we’ve come far … and yet there’s a long ways to go to make sure our seniors can continue to live and age in the community among friends and family.

For more details about the project, you can contact Rashmi at [email protected]

We heard from you!

In 2019, the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society wanted to develop a Strategic Plan to chart their work for the next few years.

For that, they hired me, Rashmi Narayan. As part of the Strategic Plan, the board determined that the vision of the society was – an inclusive community where the physical, mental and social needs of seniors are met.

I also developed and analyzed the 2019 Seniors Housing & Care Needs Survey, which delivered some surprising results.

70% or 52 of 74 seniors preferring rentals want services in addition to housing. They want to live independently but still have access to services ranging from meals, housekeeping, laundry, activities and transportation. 14 thought they needed to move out of their present homes in the next 3 years while over 60 seniors or to-be seniors felt they could stay in their current home a bit longer.

Even seniors preferring to own more age-friendly homes or apartments wanted supports. 22 of 41 seniors preferring home ownership want services in addition to housing. 

In December 2019, it became clear to many community members that it was time to stop seniors leaving the community when all they needed was more supports and not medical care. The Care Committee was formed under the society.

The Committee hosted its first Valentine’s Tea in 2020 and over 90 people came to socialize and hear about plans for the new facility. We put out flip charts to ask people what they wanted to see in the future building, property as well as programs and services. We got a long list! But there was a lot of consensus.

People share their wants in the new seniors facility.

On July 28, 2020, the Valemount Cares Project Team hosted a couple of public sessions at the Community Hall to get people’s input on the design features in the future facility. The team navigated COVID restrictions and 34 people showed up to give us more direction.

The result is a masterplan for the future development going from supportive living to long term care. The designers also have prepared preliminary concept drawings of the first phase of development.

While finding money to develop the housing units will be a bit easier, we have our work cut out to build program and service spaces for all seniors – resident seniors for meals and social events for all seniors.

We’re getting ready to fundraise because you told us what we need to build.

And we need your support – it is new unchartered terrain for a small community like us. We need your prayers and blessings.

Dollars would help too.

Please Donate

Seniors Housing & Care Needs

The Valemount Seniors Housing Society asked seniors in the Robson Valley what they wanted the society to prioritize and develop in Valemount.

The survey determined that seniors looking to move into age-friendly housing are seeking independent affordable housing units along with services like meals, housekeeping, laundry, social activities and personal care (hygiene, bath, etc.).

Valemount Seniors Housing & Care Needs Report

The Society is using this document to create a masterplan for seniors’ development.

Currently, there is no housing facility in Valemount that provides support services for seniors. The closest long-term care facility to serve Valemount is an hour or 90 kilometres away, within the McBride Hospital.

Phase 1 for the new development would be a Supported / Assisted Living facility and the future phase would include amenities to provide long term care in Valemount.

In February 2020, the Seniors Housing & Care Needs Report was incorporated into the Target Tenant Demographic Report for the Village of Valemount by Rashmi Narayan of Spirited Exchanges Consulting.

Support Us

Make the future seniors' facility a reality sooner!

Donate Now