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Seniors’ project chips away at affordability issue

Rick, Nancy, Lloyd Martin with daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren Stephanie, Brian, Micah and Manya Rempel at a ground-breaking ceremony May 26 at the Parkwood Seniors Community. Lloyd started Wallenstein Feeds in 1958. The new apartment complex, which will include 28 affordable units, will be named the Delphine and Lloyd Martin Apartments. [Leah Gerber]

Almost 30 more units for low-income seniors are in the works.

The groundbreaking event for a new apartment complex at the Parkwood Seniors Community in Waterloo was held last week. 

The apartment building will include 28 affordable units. These units needed fundraising of $7.5 million to construct, which was almost entirely met within a year.

“A year ago we quietly launched our fundraising campaign,” said Elaine Shantz, CEO of Parkwood during her speech at the event.  Since April 2021, the Mennonite organization raised over $6.5 million through private donations.

“This doesn’t happen without a strong foundation of values and commitment to addressing poverty,” Shantz said.

Donors included the Martin family of Wallenstein Feed & Supply, among many others. 

The project will be named the Delphine and Lloyd Martin Apartments in honour of the Martin family.

The building will be 89,772 square feet, six-storeys and include 90 units. Of these, 28 will be designated affordable housing, while the rest will be a combination of units for moderate and comfortable means. There will also be 19 accessible apartments. The building will also include a dining room, patios, terraces, outdoor gardens, a classroom, event space, and industrial kitchen.

The project saw its fair share of issues with inflation and supply chain issues over the last year.

“And I never heard Elaine complain once,” said Marion Good, chair of the board, during her speech.

A million dollars are still needed to fund the affordable portion of the project. Shantz said that million is the organization’s last mile.

 “If you’ve ever run a marathon, then you’ll know the last mile is the hardest,” she said.

In response, the Parkwood team launched a campaign and a brochure with opportunities for people to donate the cost of furnishings and appliances for the kitchen, classroom and common areas of the building. There are still naming opportunities left for the building as well.

The building is expected to be completed in winter 2023 to early 2024.

The project is being built as Waterloo Region is experiencing a housing crisis. In 2020 there were more than 6,000 households on the municipality’s community housing waitlist.  According to the region’s housing stability data, the wait time for seniors waiting for community housing increased by 50 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

There were just under six million seniors in Canada in 2016, according to the government of Canada’s report on senior housing needs. That represented almost 17 per cent of the total population, and the number is expected to increase to 24 per cent by 2036.

In 2017, during a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for seniors, helping seniors age in community was identified as a key priority.

According to the 2016 census, just under a quarter of seniors lived below suitable standards, meaning either they were living in a place unaffordable, the housing was inadequate or unsuitable. Living in housing below acceptable standards and not having the means to address these issues, as well as affordability was a major issue faced especially by seniors living alone.

The report found that seniors face unique challenges when trying to find housing. New builds often do not include the accessibility features they need such as railings, ramps or other safety features, while older buildings cannot always accommodate newer technology like motorized scooters and larger electric wheelchairs that need to be plugged in.

The report also found that seniors were the fastest growing demographic in Canada, and multigenerational living was the fastest growing living arrangement.

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