The members of the Vankleek Hill Non-Profit Housing Corporation want to add to the existing senior housing available in Vankleek Hill and they hope that the currently-empty day care building at the end of Derby Avenue will be part of an expansion.
Speaking as the chairperson of the non-profit housing corporation, former mayor Gary Barton addressed Champlain Township council at its most recent meeting, pointing out that no new public housing for seniors has been built in Prescott-Russell since 1992 and that the existing housing in Vankleek Hill was built around 1991.
“Senior housing is in a bit of a crisis,” said Barton, who pointed out that the units at 71 Derby include residents from everywhere, not just from Vankleek Hill. There are currently 40 people on a waiting list seeking one-bedroom units and there are 31 people on the waiting list for two-bedroom units.
People apply for the rental units, which are geared to income — to the United Counties of Prescott and Russell Housing Services.
There are people applying here and coming here from Ottawa — there is no discrimination in that regard, Barton said.
Barton’s pitch to council was that the expanded facility, which would be built in proximity to existing housing, would involve the use of the day care. The board would acquire it and build six or more units. The day care building is immediately on Derby Avenue, while the three-storey Vankeek Manor is set back from the street, east of the empty day care building.
“The idea comes from the Maxville Manor, where there are several accessory buildings (to the larger facility),” said Barton.
Barton said he was asking council for time.
“The township would have to give us time to access funding. I know you can kill this idea immediately; you have already declared the building as surplus. You could sell it and it would help your budget because I know there is never enough money,” Barton said.
But the federal government has announced that there is money available for this type of housing, Barton told council.
“We would use that as seed money to prepare a plan. I have had brief discussions with our MP, but I have nothing solid so far. Tonight, I just have one request — that you take your time to make a decision and that you give us time to look at funding,” Barton said.
In response to questions, Barton assured councillors that the non-profit corporation assumes responsibility for the seniors housing, in that it has to be sustainable and pay for itself.
L’Orignal ward councillor André Roy asked Barton if the organization turned a profit. Barton said that yes, enough profit was generated to create a reserve fund for expenses which could come up for the existing building, “But we cannot take money to build a new building; we are obligated to put money in a reserve.”
Barton also mentioned the possibility of a co-investment, whereby the township could contribute the building as its share, contingent upon federal funding. “But the project has to be sustainable and pay for itself,” Barton repeated.
Of the 40 units at the existing building, 20 are rented at reduced, geared-to-income rates, while 20 are rented at market value. There are one-bedroom units and two-bedroom units.
Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel asked if the units in the new facility would be split 50-50 between geared-to-income and market-value rentals. Barton said that had not been decided, but repeated that the new section would have to pay for itself.
Vankleek Hill councillor Peter Barton asked about the use of the existing building. Gary Barton replied that seeing as how considerable work had been done on the building within the past few years (a roof installation which was unsealed led to water infiltration during an extreme weather event, which, in turn, led to damages inside the building, an insurance claim and ended in extensive repair work).
Riopel mentioned to Gary Barton that the township had others showing interest in acquiring the building.
When asked how much time he wanted council to wait, Barton replied that he knew that government moved slowly. “I am asking you to wait for about a year,” he answered.
If by the end of this year we have nothing positive, then you could decide to move on,” Barton ended.