Dugald housing co-op a model for meeting rural seniors’ housing needs

With their Oakbank-area acreage becoming too much to maintain, Bev and Adam Zarazun plan to sell and move to a home that takes less to maintain.

In the past, that would have meant leaving their neighbours and friends too but the Zarazuns are thankful they have a new option closer by.

They’ll be living just a few miles away, in a spacious new suite at Dugald Estates, as members of Springfield Seniors Non-Profit Housing Co-op.

“We’ve reached that age,” says Bev. “We are both over 70 and we cut grass and plant a big garden. It’s time to have sort of a simpler life.”

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They looked around at condos and life leases and contemplated a move to Winnipeg, she said. But where they’re going is so much more desirable, says Bev.

The Zarazuns are among 80 persons whose new home is soon to be in the 47-unit $14.5-million equity co-op housing now under construction in the village of the same name.

“It is ideal for us,” she said. “We’re still in the country.”

The housing needs of couples like the Zarazuns were exactly what those who set out to build the housing co-op had in mind — providing good-quality, yet affordable housing for area seniors.

This project started with Dugald United Church congregation members talking over both their prospects a few years ago as an aging congregation in an old building. Their old church, now 126 years old, wouldn’t last forever but it didn’t make sense to make costly upgrades, said church member Bruce Friesen. At the same time, many congregation members were looking to downsize.

“We said we’d be better off with a new facility and also that we really needed seniors’ housing in Dugald and the area. So we said, ‘let’s put money into both.’”

The church agreed to put $150,000 from its memorial fund into the project, and to subsidize one suite for a resident who doesn’t have quite enough cash to come up with the $89,610 entrance fee. They’ll eventually hold Sunday services in the common room of the Dugald Estates.

That cash and commitment from the church got this whole project going, said Lesley Thomson, chair of the Springfield Seniors Non-Profit Housing Co-op Ltd. (SSHC) that’s built Dugald Estates.

The support from the community was strong; others agreed the need for affordable housing was increasing.

“People have lived here their whole lives, including many farmers who’ve moved to town. They were looking at what’s next and there wasn’t a lot of options in this municipality,” says Thomson.

The RM of Springfield had a population of 1,600 over age 65 including 30 per cent of those past their 70th birthday. Yet, prior to this construction there were only 98 seniors’ housing units in the entire RM, many of them built in the late 1960s.

The problem is by no means unique to Springfield, adds Thomson. And that’s why they hope their co-op will be a template for others.

This is something that can happen elsewhere in rural Manitoba, she said. The key is to get organized and build partnerships. Theirs included 3.8 acres of land sold to them for a buck from the RM of Springfield, and they secured pro bono work from professionals such as architects and lawyers willing to help them out.

Tenant equity contributions of $4.2 million and a mortgage of $10.4 million from Oakbank Credit Union will fund the project while the province’s contributions include a $900,000 (Co-op) loan guarantee, subsidies of 15 of the 47 suites and qualifying the SSHC for a $500,000 grant through its Rental Housing Construction Tax Credit Program.

Murray Gillespie sees this project as sustaining the whole community. The grandson of the village founder Dugald Gillespie plans to move with his wife Eleanor to a new suite at Dugald Estates this fall too.

Seniors’ housing like this will keep the local talent and skills base and capacity for volunteerism of their older residents, he said.

“We’ve been a pretty tight-knit community over the years,” he said. “I think it is great for the community as a whole.”

More information about the housing co-op is available online.

 

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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