By Jennifer Pass
Special to the Record
They say that aging is “not for sissies,” and many of us can vouch for that.
Joints, hearing, eyesight, memory, all start their gradual “check-out – not working well today” behaviour. But going through one’s senior years with a total monthly income lower than the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Comox Valley – that takes monumental courage. And patience.
As I walked by the apartment building in Comox shrouded in scaffolding and green netting for the sixth or seventh time in as many months, I wondered –‘who lives there?’ and ‘I hope their landlord has provided alternate accommodation for renters during this long renovation project’ and ‘I do hope their rents don’t skyrocket and then they are unable to return.’ So after this useless musing, I decided to find out more.
The apartment building is Quadra Gardens. It was built about 30 years ago as low cost housing and continues as low cost housing for seniors over 60 years of age who qualify (by income), and those with a disability over 55 years of age (also on low income). It is now one in a line of projects undertaken by the Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society. (Aside: CVAH has done other major renovations in the Comox Valley. They won Runner Up award in the 2019 Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Renovation of the Year award for the Lions Valley View Estates – A beautiful low income family town house remake set in a quiet treed area. )
Ann Janssen, executive director of CVAH, has been busy writing grant proposals and obtaining funding for a complete renovation of Quadra Gardens, including new roof, windows, shades, insulation, kitchens, bathrooms, elevator – all of which is underway, and has been for the last year. It is anticipated that the scaffolding will come off – hopefully – by the end of August. No resident pays more than $650 per month – and all were told about the details of the renovation before it started. While they were not provided with alternate living arrangements, they will not find themselves evicted when the renos are completed. While there may be a small increase in rent, it will be covered by an increase in their SAFER income.
While one resident quips that “it beats (a) campground…” generally the residents are showing patience through this difficult time of noise and construction; they appreciate the politeness of the workers, and are loving their new kitchens.
And when it is finished, what a lovely location above the Comox harbour, with shops, coffee shops, and the Comox Mall, just a few minutes’ walk away.
Time for those of us aging with fewer daily hardships to take the blinders off our vision and say a little “hurrah” both for the patience of the residents of Quadra Gardens, and the hardworking renovators and CVAH directors, who are making this possible. As Ann says, “everyone should be able to approach their home, and feel, ‘I’m home’ with a sense of peace and satisfaction.”
It will soon be so for those living in Quadra Gardens.
Jennifer Pass is the Co-ordinator of Comox Valley Elders Take Action (ETA)