Community-led housing projects marks its silver anniversary

The residents living at Meadows Residential Community Inc. celebrated the project’s 25th anniversary this week. Back row: Clinton Rohr, Laverne Brubacher. Front: Doris Kramer, Dorothy Geisel and Harold Geisel. [Aneta Rebiszewski]

Tucked away at the end of Cedar Street in St. Jacobs is the Meadows Residential Community Inc., which many have called home in the nearly 25 years since it was built.

One of the charter members, Clint Rohr, this week led a presentation reviewing what it took to organize and implement a community project that took a novel approach to meeting a housing need in the township.

Launched as a community initiative with a goal of providing a housing option for those looking to downsize without having to move to the city, it continues in that role to this day.

“They’re coming off their farms and out of their larger homes, many didn’t want to move into the city but wanted something like townhouses that’s accessible,” said Rohr of the impetus behind the endeavour.

The idea was to build the homes to make up for the lack of housing for older adults in the community that wanted to stay within the township, explained Rohr.

“It is an adult community for people age 50 and higher.”

Many of the qualifications to live at the 29 Water St. location are quite simple, says Rohr. Typically there is an age requirement of 50 or older, and residents tend to want to live with others from the community. Owners are to be residents.

The president of the housing corporation, Laverne Brubacher, explains there was a concern people might buy a few units and rent them out. “That’s not how communities are formed, so we wanted it to be local people that participate.”

Among the practical requirements, there are some that have developed on their own.

“You always have to have at least three Dorises,” laughed 96-year-old resident Doris Kramer, who has been living in her unit since the inception of the community.  Ever since the building was constructed, there have been three residents named Doris; currently there are four, which fits in with the prerequisites, she added.

The Meadows Residential Community offers a variety of amenities beyond just a place to live but it offers a chance for neighbours to actually interact and take care of one another.

“We have a buddy system here, so a neighbor or someone has key and if you’re going to go away you let them know. People often check in on each other and make sure that they’re all OK. It’s a very tight community in that respect,” said Brubacher.

There are also plenty of activities that the residents can take part in, from exercise classes to coffee breaks and even a community centre that can be rented out for events.  Everything is self-managed through the board and four different committees –quality of life, property, finance and an interview committee that handles the rental end of things.

“None of our staff is paid, we have a [resident] who is a bookkeeper by profession,” said Kramer.

While the residents work to help each other they also spend time creating memories together, and over the past 25 years there have been many made. It was established to be a caring community, and many of the residents believe it has lived up to that.

Planning for the housing began in 1992. When assessing the lot and considering the plans given by the architect,  there were a few challenges that were met, said Rohr. Things became more costly than expected and everyone started to modify their personal house plan, but there were also some aspects the residents agreed on together, like creating covered walkways and including basements in the units.

When the complex was first built, there were some 20 units and eventually by 2001 there were 38 units in total. Now 25 years later the housing community is a hot commodity for older adults in Woolwich Township, said Brubacher who oversees an approval list that currently has 50 people waiting for a unit.

As people come and go from the Meadows Residential Community, they leave a personal mark and contribution, says Rohr, much of which keeps new people entering the community and bringing in new aspects.

“It’s been a good place let me tell you, I think it was one of the best moves I ever made in my life. I’ve never for a minute regretted that I came here,” said Kramer with a smile on her face.

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