Supports needed for senior housing

Sam Odrowski

Senior and supported housing is lacking in the district and a local social service agency is trying to fill gaps.
The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) recently spoke to minister of mental health and addictions, Michael Tibollo about increasing supports.
“We don’t have assisted living, we don’t truly have supported housing and we need more of it,” DSSAB CAO Dan McCormick noted.
The DSSAB currently operates two buildings in Rainy River, Riverview Manor and Heritage House.
Riverview Manor provides supports through Riverside Health Care and at one time had a 50 percent vacancy rate, while it now has a waitlist, McCormick noted.
He said many of the residents at Heritage house, which offers apartments to those age 55 and up, want to move to Riverview Manor to access Riverside’s supports.
“Well why can’t we just put supports in the other building?” McCormick said. “The answer is right there but the province doesn’t seem to get that and there’s no funding available so we’re continuing to lobby on that as well.”
Across the district, the DSSAB has predominately rent geared to income properties for the elderly population.
Although, there’s a growing gap of seniors who can’t afford market rent but don’t meet the criteria for a rent geared to income accommodation.
“We need something in that gap, we need what’s called affordable housing,” McCormick explained. “Affordable housing can be anywhere in-between 80 to 90 percent of market rent.”
He said the challenge DSSAB faces is finding developers who will build affordable housing in the district.
“For the most part, private investors will not come in and invest in these properties because they’re looking for at max a 10 year turn around on their money,” McCormick remarked.
“When you invest in housing, you’re looking at 30 to 40 years, and in some cases maybe even a 50 year investment,” he added.
“The only way we’re going to make that investment is in collaboration between all of our municipalities to get some benefit.”