Program to address senior housing needs

FORT FRANCES—Some district seniors will have access to funding to help make repairs and improvements to their home to help them live there longer, thanks to a new program proposed by the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board and recently approved by the province.
“We are very excited to begin working on this new initiative. It’s a real asset to our district,” said DSSAB CEO Donna Dittaro.
In developing the proposal, DSSAB staff identified a need for adequate housing for seniors here.
“An increase in the percentage of senior citizens, combined with a high degree of youth out-migration, has resulted in a need for social housing that fulfills and meets the needs of seniors,” the DSSAB proposal read.
By participating in the home repair program and “partnering with community agencies that provide support service to seniors in their homes, we believe we can meet a true housing need compassionately and realistically,” the report added.
Currently, many seniors who no longer are able to live at home alone are put into long-term care such as Rainycrest, or are placed in hospital.
However, long-term care is designed to care for people with chronic illness and disabilities.
“Unfortunately, we do not have assisted living or transitional housing available for our seniors and, consequently, many have no choice but to enter a long-term care facility,” Dittaro noted.
“Some simply require home renovations or repairs,” she added. “Hopefully, this program will allow them to stay in their homes ad communities for as long as possible.”
DSSAB submitted its proposal to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and learned last week it had been approved.
“We are glad that the needs of seniors have been considered in great length and that you are prepared to address their needs,” wrote Susan Bacque, director, delivery branch for the MMAH.
“Seniors prefer to live safely in their homes with dignity and respect for as long as they are comfortable and able to do so,” the DSSAB report read.
“Facing issues such as reduced eyesight, reduced flexibility, poor balance, and less ability to go up and down stairs means that seniors require special physical supports in order for them to live in their homes rather than moving to a long-term care facility,” it continued.
Allowing seniors to age at home also allows them to stay in their own communities, rather than having to move to a facility that may be far from family and friends.
DSSAB already provides social housing for people with low incomes, but “for senior applicants, our units are not necessarily suitable,” the report read.
The Seniors Quality of Life Support Program (SQLSP) will “assist homeowner households with affordability problems so they may continue to occupy their homes by providing financial assistance to repair or rehabilitate their dwellings to a minimum level of health and safety, including features that increase accessibility and address mobility concerns,” it goes on.
The funding may be used for structural or electrical repairs, plumbing, heating, fire safety, septic systems and well water, improved accessibility for persons with disabilities, or for safety-related features that support seniors’ ability to age in place.
The money comes from the Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Program, signed by the federal and provincial governments in April, 2005, agreeing to make $602 million available for affordable housing in Ontario.
Of that, $20 million was earmarked for the repair and renovation of 1,000 affordable housing units for low-income households in Northern Ontario.
The local DSSAB will be allocated $700,000 of that to upgrade at least 30 units over five years.
Applicants will have to meet a number of requirements in order to qualify for assistance, though.
For example, they must have an income below the 60th percentile income ceiling as set by the province, the household must be substandard and deficient, and must be at or below the average market selling price as determined by the CMHA.
As well, the cost of the repair must represent a burden to the homeowner and the unit must not exceed 1,800 square feet.
DSSAB will be rolling out the program in the near future.