Housing crunch looms with rising tide of seniors in B.C.

One in 14 B.C. residents is more than 75 years old and that rate that will rise by 50 per cent during the next decade, increasing the demand for places where seniors can live independently in retirement havens such as Victoria.

The proportion of people at least 74 “has recorded double-digit increases in each of the past five census periods,” said a recent snapshot of seniors’ housing with supports released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. By 2024, one in 10 B.C. residents will be at least 75. Already, the average age of residents in such residences is 83.

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The current vacancy rate for independent living spaces was 9.1 per across B.C. out of nearly 17,000 spaces. In the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area from Sooke to Sidney, it was just 7.6 per cent.

“Units that rented for $1,900 or less had the lowest vacancy rate and the largest decline from last year,” the report stated. But the vacancy rate for spaces for seniors who require more than 1.5 hours per day in assistance show a vacancy rate of just 24 per cent in the CMA.

Average rents for units with so-called heavy care reached $6,799 monthly in 2015 in Greater Victoria and the Gulf Islands — higher than the B.C. average of $6,011.

Such rates are generally “more than double the average rent of an independent living space,” the report said.

There are nearly 36,000 seniors 75 and older living independently in seniors’ residences in Greater Victoria and the Gulf Islands, but only 11 per cent of them live in residences that offer meal plans, on-site medical services, recreational programs and 24-hour call buttons.

A CMHC market analyst said recently that this survey covered only one of several options available, such as living in their own residences, renting traditional apartments, going into long-term care facilities, or staying with their families in inter-generational houses.

In total, Aida Niavarani Zadeh found there were 6,119 spaces in seniors’ residences of which the majority — 3,669 — were bachelor units.

Of those, 2,337 spaces are in residences that offer heavy care, defined as 1.5 hours per day to each resident.

A further 3,782 spaces are in seniors’ residences that do not mandate high levels of care but 725 of these spaces are in residences that provide it. A further 2,004 spaces are for independent living, 675 are subsidized or non-market spaces and 378 were not categorized.

The average resident in seniors’ homes — not including long-term nursing homes — is 83, the report said.

The CMHC report comes just weeks after another released by the B.C. Health Coalition that said the ranks of B.C. seniors has nearly doubled in the past 12 years, but the number receiving home support was little changed in 2013-14, boosting the burdens of care for seniors’ families. According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, nearly 40 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women over 75 have disabilities that limit their activities.

 

Among the findings for the Capital Region:

• One-bedroom units have the lowest vacancy rate at 6.7 per cent in 2015, down from 9.3 per cent in 2014.

• Bachelor vacancies are at 10.3 per cent and two-bedroom unit vacancies are 7.4 per cent.

• The majority of units — 60 per cent— cost at least $2,900 per month.

• Only eight per cent of units rented for less than $1,900 monthly.

•The average rent is $3,301 per month, up from $3,172 last year.

• Even bachelor suites had an average rent of $2,277, up from $2,149 in 2014.

•The median number of units per seniors’ residences is 61.

• There are 30,194 independent-living units for B.C. seniors and a further 21,000 long-term care spaces for those who need complex care in residences operated under the auspices of provincial health authorities.

kdedyna@timescolonist

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