North Battleford's newest affordable housing project aims to revamp the downtown area while creating a comfortable community setting for seniors.
"It'll be somewhere you'll actually want to live," said Jay Jackson, vice-president of Battlevalley Enterprises.
The project, located on the 900 block of 104th Street, will be comprised of five four-plexes, for a total of 20 units and is expected to be completed by October 2011. In order to qualify for the $730 per month apartments, applicants must be over 55 and have a gross income of less than $44,500 per year.
One four-plex has already been completed, and was displayed to the public during a sod-turning ceremony Jan. 27.
Biggar MLA Randy Weekes, on behalf of Minister June Draude, Shirlinell Hopkins, on behalf of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Councillor Ray Fox, on behalf of the City of North Battleford, and Battlefords MLA Len Taylor attended the ceremony.
"It's very, very necessary to have housing options for seniors," said Fox. "We're always being asked what we're doing to help seniors."
He shared a snippet of First Nations culture, explaining a Cree term for grandmother, Notokwew, means the elderly woman is so "rich" she has run out of room for her grandchildren.
The City of North Battleford has given Battlevalley Enterprises a five-year tax concession on the affordable housing project.
"It's an economic driver for the community," said Weekes, adding the provincial government, through the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, has provided a $750,000 interest-free loan for the project.
"Housing for low-income seniors is very important," said Weekes, explaining the Sask. Party is investing in low-income housing for seniors and people with disabilities. "This keeps the seniors in their home communities, which is important."
Hopkins made similar remarks, saying, "Finding suitable and affordable accommodation can be a concern, especially for seniors."
The federal government, through Canada's Economic Action Plan, also made $750,000 available as an interest-free loan.
The loans are interest-free for 12.5 years, after which time they are forgiven, granted certain conditions are met.
The housing project cannot make a profit during that time period, with rent payments going towards expenses such as water (which is included in the rental price), taxes, management and payments on the private bank loans acquired for the project.
Any surplus has to be re-invested in the housing project. If the operating costs exceed the income, rent may be increased, but only upon approval of the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.
Each unit, which will be rented for $730 per month, has two bedrooms, a deck with a natural gas outlet, a detached garage and five appliances.
"We researched the market to find out what seniors really want," said Carl Jackson, president of Battlevalley Enterprises, pointing to such features as the 36-inch door frames that allow for easy passage with wheelchairs.
Although the rear units have ramps, the front units share a wheelchair lift.
Each unit also has an undeveloped basement, although the basements do have plumbing for future development. One of the completed units has a developed basement, complete with a bedroom, common area and bathroom, as an example of what can be done with the basements.
Jackson said the original plan was to develop all the basements, but they were unable to secure adequate funding.
Jackson said in the future, they could work with the tenants to develop the basements, adding they make an ideal space for live-in caregivers.
Jackson said he designed the units with seniors' needs in mind, hoping it will eliminate the need for them to relocate to assisted living facilities.
"We're hoping that once they come, they'll stay," he said.
Battlevalley Enterprises, a father-son team, came into existence over four years ago, when Carl Jackson saw the Battlefords were lagging behind Saskatoon and Regina in Saskatchewan's booming economy.
"I saw a huge potential," he said.
Carl's son Jay came home from New Zealand, where he attended post-secondary and spent some time working for the Ministry of Social Development, just in time to be a part of the venture.
The low-income housing project is the first of its kind that Battlevalley Enterprises has taken on, although it is their fifth building project in the Battlefords.
This is also the first time Battlevalley Enterprises has teamed up with Macklin-based E & L Building Contractors, something both Carl and Lynnsay Feser, E & L part owner, say was an enjoyable experience.
For more information on the housing project, or to apply for a unit contact Jay Jackson at 481-0303.