Proceeds from the sale of Powell River Sunset Homes Society’s former Olive Devaud Residence will go into the construction of at least 24 new units of affordable seniors’ housing in the city, said society president Myrna Leishman.
The non-profit organization constructed the building in 1966 with the help of funding and donated land from Olive Devaud, a longtime resident who died in 1969. With her donation, Devaud requested that the society provide affordable housing for seniors.
Leishman, who has been volunteering with Sunset Homes for at least the past 25 years, said the building started out as a boarding house but shifted to offer more assisted care as its residents aged. The regional health authority took over its operation as a care facility and added capacity later to care for people living with dementia.
After Vancouver Coastal Health returned the building in 2014, the society looked at various renovating options to provide housing, but the costs were prohibitive, said Leishman.
“We all loved the building and stuck up for it, but we had to face reality,” she said. “The society just couldn’t afford it.”
Leishman said the sale of the building will allow the society to continue with its mandate to provide affordable housing for seniors.
“This way we’ll be able to continue with our program of providing affordable housing to people who need it,” said Leishman. “We couldn’t do that if we continued to hang on to Olive Devaud Residence.”
Last year, Sunset Homes spent more than $100,000 just to keep heat and electricity on in the 50-year-old building, she added. “We’re a small society,” said Leishman. “We don’t have a lot of money.”
Before it was listed, Leishman said the society applied to BC Housing for a $3.5 million provincial grant, but that was denied.
Society treasurer Stu Craig said that while the application met the criteria, he felt that the province was favouring new builds over renovating older buildings. The plan was to renovate the 80 single rooms into a building with a mix of one- and two-bedroom units for 50 people.
Although Craig said he could not say what the selling price of the building was, he did confirm that it was more than $1 million.
Last April, the society reduced its asking price to $1.65 million. The building was initially listed for more than $2 million.
Leishman confirmed that Shih-tao Lu’s Starium Development has purchased the building. Lu also purchased land on the Wildwood bluffs last year with various development planned, including the establishment of a marina, hotel and university campus.
Lu owns Vancouver-based Eton College. Eton and Vancouver Island University have been working on developing various educational partnership programs. It is unknown at this time what Lu’s plans are for the building.
Leishman said the society is in the process of drawing plans for a new facility that could include up to 30 units of one- and two-bedroom housing.
“We haven’t secured a property yet, but that’s what we’re working on,” she said. “It will be in the same model as what we’ve done because they’ve been very successful.”
Craig said the new building will operate similar to the society’s other buildings, Leishman Lodge, built in 2008, and McGregor Place, built in 2000.
Leishman Lodge and McGregor Place have one- and two-bedroom suites. Single bedroom units are priced about $100 below market value and the two-bedrooms units are priced at market value. That allows the more expensive units to subsidize the less-expensive ones, including the 12 single-room units in Centennial Homes, said Craig.
Centennial Homes is located across Westview Avenue from McGregor Place. Craig said those units rent for $300 per month.
When the new building is complete, said Leishman, Centennial residents will be first in line for a new apartment.