Chairperson for Community Seniors Co-operative Ltd (CSCL), Sally Lockhart, updated members of the group on the progress of their goal to build a new community care facility in O’Leary during CSCL’s annual general meeting on June 2. Melissa Heald photo

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The Community Seniors Co-operative Ltd (CSCL) is working towards building a new 50 unit community care facility in O’Leary, aiming for a late fall ground breaking.

The group has finished the conceptual development and business planning phase and is working towards construction documents and tendering package being completed over the summer.

The building will be situated on a land donation from the O’Leary Farmers’ Co-operative. This will situate the new community care home on land diagonally across from the Co-op on Royal Avenue. The Town of O’Leary has agreed to re-zone the Co-op property and the land will be transferred to CSCL at the time of mortgage signing. The piece of property owned by the Public Hall Company (where Home Hardware is situated), that was also initially offered, will not be needed at this time.

After over two years of planning, in 2020, the CSCL brought on two experienced consultants, Stephen Davies and John Aylward of Local Development Group (LDG) and APHL, both bringing extensive history in developing affordable and special need housing in PEI. APHL offers property management assistance, while LDG offers development resource consulting, having built and is managing a variety of affordable and supportive housing operations in PEI and New Brunswick.  

“It’s been wonderful and really taken the pressure off with us feeling comfortable with moving forward with our negotiations,” said CSCL Chairperson Sally Lockhart on working with Mr Davies and Mr Aylward at the group’s annual general meeting on June 2

The design of the facility itself has gone through several evolutions, the original concept being 40 community care units. The idea of a 35-unit community care facility was tested, with 15 affordable seniors’ apartments but didn’t work out. After extensive need and demand analysis, the group has settled on building a three-storey home with 50 licensed community care beds.

Following up on PEI’s history of being a leader in renewable energy, CSCL began exploring their Sustainable Affordable Housing programs, with the goal of making the new O’Leary facility as net-zero energy efficient as possible. Towards that end, CSCL has applied to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) Sustainable Affordable Housing Program’s Capital Stream, which could provide financing for 20 per cent of the eligible capital costs for the project, with half of this support, 10 per cent, as non-repayable. 

Funding for this development is unique and comes from several sources. CSCL had submitted its application to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund in November 2020 and is working its way through the various stages of approval. The CSCL board will ensure all the requirements for its mortgage will be in place by the fall.  

The Town of O’Leary has agreed to donate $275,000 to CSCL once the agreement with CMHC has been reached. 

With fundraising on the forefront for CSCL, it has raised $162,000, just $38,000 short of their $200,000 goal for their mortgage contribution. 

“We’ve been really thrilled with the support we’ve had from the community to date,” said Ms Lockhart.

To reach their final goal, the CSCL will be ramping up their fundraising efforts over the next few weeks.

“If all goes well, and all the stages happen the way they are supposed to, and that’s a big if, we will be ready to sign the mortgage this fall,” said Ms Lockhart.

In regards to the work done to date by the Board of CSCL, Ms Lockhart said she’s often felt throughout the process of this project that the board has been on a sail boat. 

“At times we’ve been calm and felt nothing is happening,” she said. “Sometimes we are tacking and chasing the wind, for us that’s chasing money, other times exploring programs we might be able to qualify for. For most of 2019 I would say we were tacking to find our funding home, but by the end of that year we found it with Canada Mortgage and Housing.”

In 2020, CSCL, along with their development consultants began working with the architectural firm SableArc Studios, a Charlottetown based firm focused on sustainable design. 

“We gave them a huge wish list, a tight budget and have come to a middle ground where much of what we want is in the building,” said Ms Lockhart. 

Ms Lockhart said she and the board see real progress being made to reach the group’s goal of a new 50 unit affordable, full accessible, net-zero ready residence for seniors and adults with challenges living in the O’Leary area.

“We are starting to see the shore, and know we have a ways to go, but we have the right board and team working with us” she said. “We’re pretty sure, our building will become reality in 2021 and 2022, and yes, it does take a community effort to create a resource like this.”

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