Affordable housing to target senior women of limited means

Heather Martin, CEO at Vision Nursing & Rest Home, stands at the corner of Wellington and Crawford streets where the new Wellington Flats affordable housing project is under construction. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson 

Heather Martin expects the new affordable housing units under construction adjacent Vision Nursing & Rest Home will be spoken for before they open.

“I’ve already had about 30 calls for 21 apartments,” says Martin, CEO of the charitable not-for-profit that operates 146 long-term care beds and 36 rest-home beds at 229 Wellington St.

Vision was the successful applicant for a $1.9-million Lambton County grant to build a new facility and ease demand for affordable housing in Sarnia-Lambton.

Nasr Limited also received Lambton County funding for 14 affordable housing units on Copland Road, as did Standing Oaks on Murphy Road for four affordable beds for the medically fragile.

Vision is using the grant money to assist with construction of a $7-million facility at the corner of Crawford and Wellington, right next to the rest home. It will be called Wellington Flats.

When completed, likely by late summer, Wellington Flats will provide 21 subsidized one-bedroom apartments renting for about $650 a month.

To make the business model work, Vision is incorporating another 15 bachelor apartments that are not subsidized. They include some housekeeping and meal service and will rent for approximately $2,000 a month, said Martin.

She said she and her volunteer board were drawn to the project because they see the rising demand for affordable housing.

International college students and out-of-town contractors working big industrial projects like the Nova expansion often snap up the limited number of units available.

In particular, Vision wants to offer the units to women over the age of 65 with limited pensions.

“Women will be our first option, then we’ll consider men,” Martin said. “There are many people who worked hard all their lives but didn’t get a pension. We want them to have a dignified place to live without a label.

“There’s nobody else in Sarnia doing this,” Martin added. “Vision has thrived since 1974 because it’s willing to look at innovative solutions to the needs of this community.”

The county received seven applications when it requested proposals for affordable housing in 2015, said Kelly Hall, Lambton’s manager of housing services.

At the time, a new report indicated a serious need for affordable housing for all demographics in Sarnia-Lambton, with seniors a priority group.

Vision’s project is the first of its kind in Lambton County with affordable housing attached to a long-term care and retirement home, said Hall.

“Vision is very forward thinking and socially minded. This is a great benefit to our community,” she said.

Too many seniors must decide between paying rent or buying groceries each month, Hall added. “This is a good news story.”

It’s possible applicants for Vision’s affordable housing units will also qualify for bridge subsidies to further assist with rent.

If rent costs more than 30% of an individual’s gross monthly income, they can apply for a larger subsidy, Hall said.

Applications for the new Wellington Flats will not be accepted at Vision until the New Year.

An artist rendering of Wellington Flats, a new affordable housing complex under construction beside Vision Nursing Home.
Submitted Image