Tell Me More About Seniors' Housing

This section contains a lot of information that you will find useful. You can scroll down the page or jump to any one of the following sections:

Supportive Housing
Life Lease Housing
Retirement Homes
Social Housing
Adult Lifestyle Communities

Supportive Housing

Purpose
Supportive housing is intended to assist seniors who want to live independently but need someone to help them. The type of assistance needed includes assistance with activities of daily living (those activities performed routinely including hygiene, dressing, walking, washing and grooming), daily visits or telephone reassurance, 24-hour emergency response, shopping, cooking, meals, transportation and counseling. The services needed are not as extensive as the medical and nursing care services offered in long term care homes.

Some non-profit housing providers receive funding from the Ontario government through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to deliver personal care and supportive services to eligible tenants.

In some situations people are able to access some level of support in their own homes by contracting directly with various agencies who provide the support. In supportive housing the support is arranged through the housing and is connected with the housing.

Types of Supportive Housing Projects
Supportive Housing can be found within any of the types of seniors housing discussed in this section. A senior may prefer to live in an apartment building, either a condominium or rental apartment, that offers supportive services but in which the senior has his/her own private apartment. Many supportive housing projects offer common rooms, such as lounges, activity room and dining room to allow for social interaction and leisure activities.

If the senior prefers to live close to others and still live in their own home, there are a variety of large dwellings shared by about 10 people, each of whom has some private space.  Some examples are Abbeyfield houses, Special Care Group Home and co-housing. These offer a mixture of private and common spaces. The private space may include a bedroom, bathroom and in some cases kitchenettes but the house will also include some shared space.

Support Services
The range of supportive services provided by the housing provider varies from project to project. Housing projects offering little support service appeal to active, healthy seniors while older, more frail seniors prefer projects with a larger range of services.

In some cases, the housing project is associated with a long term care home with outreach support services; such projects may be part of a comprehensive continuum of care or a long-term care ‘campus’. As tenants age and their support needs increase, they may be able to move to the long term care home that is part of the campus and continue to receive care from the organization with which they are familiar.

Tenure and Types of Dwellings
These vary depending upon the particular type of seniors’ housing (see Tenure and Types of dwellings listed under the other housing types discussed in this section). May be operated as either not-for-profits or for-profits.

Life Lease Housing

Purpose
To provide affordable housing for older adults and seniors who have capital to invest.

Purchasing a Life Lease Suite
Development of a Life Lease project begins with a non-profit and/or charitable organization (e.g. housing corporation, service club, church or ethnic association) which sponsors the project and oversees both the development and ongoing management. Ownership of the life lease development remains in the name of the sponsoring organization.

Applicants who meet the criteria, commonly a minimum age (such as 65 years of age), may purchase the exclusive Right to Occupy the leasehold suite and use the common areas (lounges, workshops, recreation areas, parking, etc.). Residents are neither tenants nor owners, but a combination of the two.

As the sponsoring organization is non-profit, the initial price of a life lease suite is based on break-even cost plus a reasonable contribution towards a contingency fund. Residents make an initial investment towards the construction of the project and upon its completion, pay the balance of the price of the life lease suite. As they continue to live in the housing residents pay a monthly occupancy fee to cover the project’s ongoing operating costs. Although the leasehold is available for life, residents may sell the Right to Occupy and, consequently, earn a return on their investment (similar to condominiums or private homes). The sale price of the life lease may be based on the market or may be determined by a formula; this varies by project.

Support Services
Life lease residents may have the option of purchasing support services as described under Supportive Housing. Some life lease projects which are connected with long term care homes may provide some level of support without charge.

Tenure
Leasehold interest.

Type of Dwellings
Multi-residential (e.g. townhouses and apartments). Generally, operated as not-for-profits.

Retirement Homes

Purpose
To serve seniors who are in relatively good health but require assistance with activities of daily living (those activities performed routinely, such as hygiene, dressing, ambulation, washing and grooming) and who do not want to live independently.

Support Services
Retirement homes provide a range of care and supportive services. Some homes have different levels of care and services; thus, allowing residents to remain in the retirement home should their health decline. Retirement homes provide accommodation and usually provide nursing staff or health care aides for medication administration and personal care. Generally, they also provide 24 hour supervision, meals (usually in a common dining room), recreational activities, laundry and housekeeping services. Monthly costs vary depending upon the services purchased. Some homes allow extra personal care services to be purchased from an external agency.

Some retirement homes have respite care for seniors requiring short term stay as they recover from an illness or to relieve the caregiver or for vacation care. Note:  In 2010 the Government of Ontario passed the Retirement Homes Act, which will introduce regulations to establish standards for the care provided in retirement homes.

Tenure
Rental.

Types of Dwellings
Varying from houses to high-rise buildings. Residents generally rent a bedroom or bedsitting room and have access to a range of common areas. May be operated as either for-profits or not-for-profits; the second type sometimes have different kinds of subsidies available.

Social Housing

Purpose
To provide affordable housing for seniors, families and single people with low to moderate incomes.

Types of Social Housing

  • Non-profit housing is owned and managed by either municipal housing corporations, accountable to local governments or private non-profit  organizations (such as churches, seniors’ organizations and ethno-cultural groups).
     
  • Co-operative housing is owned and controlled by the residents, who are voting members and assist with the co-op operations. Members do not have any individual equity ownership and cannot sell their units. Co-ops are governed by the residents with an elected board of directors; there are no outside landlords.
     
  • Rent supplement agreements allow low-income people to access housing in the private sector in which they pay 30% of their income towards rent; the remaining portion of the rent is paid by the government to the private landlord.

  • Housing Allowances are a fixed amount of subsidy provided to a private landlord to redudce the rent of the person living in the housing – similar to Rent Supplement, except that the subsidy is fixed amount, not geared to the resident’s income.

Tenure
Rental. Many of the tenants are low-income households paying 30% of their income on rent while others are moderate-income households paying market rent.

Types of Dwellings 
High-rise buildings, houses or rooming houses, mid-rise buildings, low-rise buildings, townhouses. Non-profit housing and co-operative housing are operated as not-for-profits and the rent supplement agreements are made with for-profit owners.

Access to Social Housing
Social housing is administered by 47 " Municipal Service Managers, often "upper-tier municipalities" like counties or regional municipalities. The Service Managers are responsible for funding and administration of all social housing. As well, the Service Managers are responsible for managing "Social Housing Coordinated Access" centres for households wanting access to social housing in their community. For information on how to access the waiting list in your community contact the "Social Housing Coordinated Access" in your community or call your local municipal office and ask to connect to the Service Manager for your area.

Funding and Administration of Social Housing
Rental housing, including housing specifically targeted for seniors, is not financially viable in the current housing market unless some form of subsidy is provided. Since the mid 1970's a significant amount of rental housing was built with financial support from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. From 1995 to the early years of the new millennium, very little new rental housing was built in Ontario. In April 2005 an agreement was reached between the federal and provincial governments, which has seen a significant increase in the new supply of affordable rental housing. “Affordable housing” developed since 2005 is unlike the social housing developed prior to 1995.  Most rents are set at 80% of the market rent for similar housing in the same area. 

In housing developed prior to 1995 some portion of the housing is made available for low-income households (including seniors) on a rent-geared-to-income basis (RGI). In RGI housing, eligible households are selected from waiting lists maintained by the municipal government. The rent paid by the household is calculated based on 30% of the total household income from all sources.

Adult Lifestyle Communities

Purpose
Geared towards retirees or near-retirees who have the ability to live completely independently and who prefer to live among their peers in a lively and active community offering amenities, including recreation and sports homes (e.g. tennis, golf and hiking).  Residents of adult lifestyle communities may be at different stages of their lives; some continue to work, some volunteer, some are busy all day while others prefer a slower pace. Most properties are located outside the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Tenure
Condominium, freehold, rental, land-lease, life-lease

Types of Dwellings
Detached bungalows, semi-detached houses, townhouses, apartments.


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