Not all seniors want high-end assisted living; some just want a nice place to live

Not all seniors want assisted living. For many, all they need is an affordable place to live.

With that in mind, Kamloops developer Stefen Reid built Golden Vista Suites at 375 Cherry Ave. The 46-unit building will open by June.

Reid, a former CFL Montreal Alouettes linebacker, said he saw a gap to fill in a socially necessary market. His brochure offers seniors "safe, physically accessible and manageable living."

Golden Vista Suites will be mostly a rental building, offering self-contained 400-square-foot studio suites for about $750 a month.

Fifteen of the suites in the building have been purchased by BC Housing, which intends to rent them out to low-income seniors as part of its subsidized housing programs.

Eight other units were sold as strata condo units for about $115,000, leaving 23 units available to the seniors' rental market.

Reid said his decision to build Golden Vista Suites was influenced in part by watching the difficulty his wife's father had finding an affordable place to live.

Many seniors today don't need and don't want to maintain a house, but can't afford to pay $2,000 to $2,800 a month for entry into some of the higher-end seniors' complexes.

Yes, those places offer tenants daily meals and housekeeping, but Reid said his market research indicates many people don't want or need assisted living. They just want a place to live, in a clean, safe environment with others of their age.

"We felt (the complex) fulfilled a growing demand that was being overlooked," he said.

Building a rental complex in today's construction market is not an easy task, Reid conceded. His company, Trophy Developments, intends to keep the building long-term, although property management will be done by Columbia Property Management in Kamloops.

Reid said his project toughed it out through last year's financial meltdown, when banks were extremely reluctant to lend money to commercial real estate projects.

He had hoped to offer all the 46 suites as rental units to seniors, but construction costs made him realize he needed to sell 23 of the units.

BC Housing's decision to purchase 15 of the 46 units helped secure construction financing that allowed the project to proceed.

As well, the agency's ownership of the units will create the same sort of service Reid envisioned, since the units will also be rented to seniors.

Reid said the building is in the finishing stages now, with occupancy expected by May or June. Columbia Property Management is assembling a list of prospective tenants. People must be 55 years or older in order to be considered.

The building's location is also a key to its success. While Cherry Avenue has a bad reputation, the fact is the location offers a great deal of value.

The building sits within sight of Tranquille Road and its bus routes. It is close to many commercial shops and services.

Reid said many of those who have expressed interest in living in the building are neighbourhood seniors who have lived their lives on the North Shore and want to stay there.

"This area has a lot of value, not just to a developer, but for people to live here," he said. "And we have the best North Shore views."

As well, the City offers numerous incentives to builders as part of its North Shore redevelopment plan. The City has agreed to substantially reduce the building's property taxes for 10 years.

Reid said before he started construction, the site was an empty decrepit lot used as a hangout. Golden Vista Suites is helping revitalize the North Shore, by filling in urban decay with new growth.

The new complex will be fenced and secure, with a live-in manager, he said. The grounds will be maintained and will substantially improve what had become a rundown part of the neighbourhood.

The four-storey complex offers the rental market something not seen for years - a new building. The units are small but comfortable, designed for single living. All units have appliances, heat and air conditioning. Utilities like telephone, hydro and cable will be extra.

The building has a common laundry room and games area, and an outdoor garden. There is a secure, energized parking area for motorized scooters.

Reid said the interest people have shown in his project tells him the market needs more complexes like Golden Vista Suites.

"The biggest indicator was BC Housing's activity in this market. The purchases (the agency) made shows there is a demand for more affordable rentals for seniors. This is a solid market."

To learn more about the Golden Vista Suites, call Columbia Property Management at 250-851-9310.

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