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Langford puts out the welcome mat for seniors

Langford may have a young demographic, but the welcome mat is out for seniors who choose to retire there, said Mayor Stew Young. Diversity is key, he said.
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Langford Mayor Stew Young: "Our model is basically for the youngest of the young and oldest of the old to interact in the community — I've been pushing that for the 20 years I've been mayor."

Langford may have a young demographic, but the welcome mat is out for seniors who choose to retire there, said Mayor Stew Young.

Diversity is key, he said.

The municipality — with 32 per cent of its population between the ages of 25 and 44 years compared to the B.C. average of 26.3 per cent — entices new seniors’ housing developments with a 10-year tax holiday. But there’s also room — a lot of room — for the massive Westhills development, a planned community that aims to attract grandparents, parents and children.

“I’ve always supported having seniors living in the community [because] it makes it a healthier community,” Mayor Young said. “I like to have interaction with grandparents and the kids.

“Our model is basically for the youngest of the young and oldest of the old to interact in the community — I’ve been pushing that for the 20 years that I’ve been mayor,” Young said.

Seniors housing “is market-driven but supported by the community and the politicians,” Young said.

“You want to have a diverse type of housing, diverse types of people living there and just be welcoming to everybody.”

The municipality offers free trolley service to help those without cars or on limited incomes to get around.

“Seniors need pharmacies, restaurants, places for people to go and hang out and feel part of the community,” Young said.

The municipality accommodates the changing demographics by widening sidewalks so they can accommodate both scooters and pedestrians, Young said.

“Langford hasn’t had any of that stuff [like wider sidewalks] before,” Young said.

“We try to work with the development community so they help us pay for all this stuff.”

Seniors-only stratas are less common than they used to be, said Sandy Wagner, president of Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, which has 9,000 members.

“People find that with having only seniors in the building, they don’t have a lot of active people who want to be on strata councils — that’s a good reason to lower the age limit,” Wagner said.

Another is the difficulty living around the strata’s rules, especially for seniors who want their grandchildren to visit.

“Many people aren’t aware of [the rules] when they move in,” Wagner said. “They say they only want their grandchildren to visit for a couple of weeks, and it may or may not be allowed under the bylaws.”

Strata rules can only restrict the age of residents, not the age of unit owners. That became a problem for another woman Wagner knows, who while in her 40s inherited a unit in a 55-and-up complex. She couldn’t live there and couldn’t rent it out because the strata banned rentals.

“She tried unsuccessfully to get around the no-rental restrictions and it cost more in fines over the long term than it would have to just leave it empty and pay the monthly strata fees — she eventually sold the unit before she turned 55,” said Wagner.

With the increasing number of seniors moving to Greater Victoria for the climate, the demand for age-restricted condominiums is likely to go up, said Andrew Ramlo, an urban planner with Urban Futures Consulting.

“The CRD certainly has an older population … and I would probably say that you’re probably going see an increase in the numbers of condos that will be age-restricted,” said Ramlo.

“There’s a reason why those those restrictions are there and that’s generally because there’s a certain segment of the population that’s going to want to enjoy or require to be in that type of situation.

“Might be a bunch of young folks with no kids or a bunch of older folks who don’t have any kids either and they just want that type of lifestyle.”

Communities thrive with diversity, so seniors housing can work well when it’s in proportion to a larger community, Ramlo said.

“The communities that work well have a good mix of things, whether that be people and ages or uses with respect to the corner store, a seniors’ centre and a daycare. Diversity is a good thing.”

Diversity can create and promote livability in general in a community, Ramlo said.

“But that said, there’s always going to be a certain segment of the population who say, ‘I just want to be with people who are like me,’ whether that be a seniors’ community … or a younger community that has a restriction on things like kids.”

smcculloch@timescolonist.com