COUNTY OF WELLINGTON – A county-led seniors’ development has seen an increase in expected cost and size.
Continuum of Care is a proposed seniors’ housing complex to feature mixed cost and sized units at the grounds of Wellington Place near Wellington Terrace and Groves Memorial Community Hospital.
The original plan consisted of four buildings of affordable, market rental, life lease and a community hub totalling 206-units. This was anticipated in a March 2019 report to cost around $88 million.
The updated plan features 52 retirement living units, 76 market rentals, 54 affordable rentals, 44 life lease apartments and 28 semi-detached garden home life lease units for a total of 254-units. This new plan comes at a steep increase to $135 million in anticipated cost.
The community hub is still included along with courtyards, green spaces and lots of parking both on and below ground.
This plan had been presented previously to an internal design committee in July but had not been made public before being presented to the information, heritage and seniors committee on Wednesday.
Each unit type has seen an increase in the proposed amount and the 14 garden home buildings are a new concept introduced in this updated plan.
Gerry Pilon, owner of Salter Pilon Architecture, said these numbers are consistent with what the market can supply.
Ken DeHart, county treasurer, presented a funding scenario where nearly half the cost would be financed through debt.
Annual operating expenses under this scenario, with expenses calculated based on a similar development, the Continuum of Care project would run at a cost of $1.8 million.
“To balance the books this would require $1.8 million worth of annual tax levy development to make the project work,” DeHart said.
Another scenario calculated a possible break even from the start with a significantly reduced debt load on the county.
In this scenario grants and funding from the province and federal government would need to total nearly $36.7 million to lower debt financing to $26.7 million.
This in turn would reduce yearly debt charges and make operations break even.
DeHart said although the government funding projection is merely a break even calculation, there are existing funding opportunities and future ones anticipated.
Councillor Campbell Cork said he wasn’t at the July meeting and was shocked by the jump in price from the previous design.
He stressed he’s not opposed to the idea of this project but the financing and funding suggested.
“I believe that borrowing, whichever it is $63 or $27 million, is going to suck the air out of other projects,” Cork said. “This $135 million project is not even one of our core responsibilities.”
Cork went on to say this was not the right time for the project and changes to long-term care buildings, like the Wellington Terrace beside this proposal, could impact this.
“The Continuum of Care is outdated before it started because it is based on pre-COVID-19 provincial standards,” Cork said. “I think this is a project for the private sector.”
Committee chair Mary Lloyd defended this project as the right thing to do.
She mentioned that the county is short on rental units and this could free up units county-wide for other residents.
“It’s important for us to remember, while focused on retirement and senior living, this does not mean we are not serving many residents in our community with opportunities for housing throughout our county,” Lloyd said.
The committee approved this to be considered at council and directed staff to begin the process of applying and lobbying for government funding.
This project will be discussed at a special county council meeting on Oct. 29.