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Housing diversity important for healthy aging
Delivering opportunities for healthy aging is an important objective for our district. Ingredients for this include recreational support for active living as well as access to housing that accommodates seniors of different physical needs, ages, family structures and incomes. Saanich Parks & Recreation has a number of adult programs from Gentle Walk & Talk, to Social Drop in, Social Cooking, Boost Your Brain Power and more. Tackling housing needs is more challenging but we are working in Saanich, and with higher levels of government, to help deliver these opportunities.
The recent study by B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie reported seniors express deep concern around the affordability, availability and appropriateness of their housing. They expressed wanting to age as independently as possible in their own homes and in their local communities.
As chair of the Planning, Transportation and Economic Development committee, I have worked with a wide range of professionals to bring recommendations to council for actions that will help improve opportunities for aging in place. As a result, council approached the province in support of the B.C. seniors advocate’s recommendation for a Homeowner Expense Deferral Account program, that allows senior homeowners to use their home equity to offset those major ongoing and exceptional expenses associated with home ownership until their house is sold. Also, to amend the Residential Tenancy Act and Strata Property Act and the Home Adaptation for Independence (HAFI) program to better protect tenants and owners who require non-structural modifications to their unit (i.e. grab bars, flooring) and to improve access to up to $20,000 per home in the form of forgivable loans.
Working with successful recommendations at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, we have approached the federal and provincial ministers responsible for housing and finance requesting they implement a new Home Renovation Tax Credit Program. Eligible projects would include energy efficiency (heating), insulation (replace asbestos-based insulation), and safety.
Working with the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., and their “You Hold the Key” campaign we have requested the province and federal governments continue support for the 34 housing co-ops across the Capital Region, and recommended that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (our federal body) requests the same.
More immediately, Saanich has three grant programs to help residents reduce home heating costs: Time for a Change, up to $2,000 to convert from heating oil to heat pump; Home Energy Coaching Pilot, providing free coaching for eligible residents; and the Home Energy Rebate Offer (HERO) rebates from BC Hydro and FortisBC for energy savings, with a $750 bonus for homes completing three programs.
Focusing on the housing issues of seniors will help Saanich be inclusive for all ages and improve our quality of life.
Fred Haynes is a councillor with the District of Saanich.