The Catherine Gardens seniors housing project started with a bang Thursday afternoon at the Schubert Centre.
A gathering of about 100 hard hat-wearing onlookers watched as work crews blasted a section of the hillside behind the centre as part of the ground-breaking ceremony for Vernon’s latest retirement residence.
Jack Gareb, manager of the Schubert Centre, was thrilled to see the project get underway.
“It’s a great location. We’re supplying 56 suites to 55-plus and here we are right downtown. What better location can you have?
“On top of that, we have the Schubert Centre right close by.”
Following a life lease model, the centre will form a non-profit society that oversees the administration and maintenance for Catherine Gardens, named after Okanagan pioneer Catherine Schubert. In turn, it will use any profits raised to help cover operation of the centre.
In a life lease, the resident pays an entrance fee (the cost of construction) to a non-profit society, which owns the building on title. This buys the resident the right to occupy the unit of their choosing in the development for as long as they choose. The lease is typically 30 years, less a day, for tax purposes.
Simon Davie, of Terra Lumina Life Lease Housing, said the project will benefit both the Schubert Centre and the seniors in the Greater Vernon community. He added the life lease approach makes a lot sense in an era when there isn’t a lot of government funding available for seniors housing.
“A lot of this is driven to try to make the Schubert Centre sustainable,” said Davie. “It’s an incredibly good complement to the seniors centre. It adds to the membership, it adds to the services.”
Units at Catherine Gardens range from $179,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit to $359,900 for a two-bedroom, two-bath suite.
To date, 32 units have sold, and Gareb added there are a number of units on hold for prospective clients. Construction is expected to be completed in late 2015.
Davie said residents usually finance the purchase of a life lease unit with the sale of their existing home. Downsizing enables them to help pay for their retirement using the equity saved in their previous home and by reducing the costs of home operations and maintenance.
Among those at Thursday’s ceremony was Rich Coleman, B.C. housing minister.
“These are good projects where you can go into innovation in housing and you can actually have a society to plan and put something together where you can have affordability and stability in seniors housing,” said Coleman.