Rainbow will need 20 per cent down for seniors housing 

Lacklustre sales for seniors housing at the athletes’ village

Whistler seniors will have to put their money where their mouths are if they are to see their dream of seniors housing come true.

In order for two apartment buildings to move ahead at the new Rainbow subdivision, seniors will need to sign on the dotted line with a 20 per cent down payment before construction begins.

If that happens, they could be moving into their new homes as early as the end of 2011.

"That's going to be the challenge," said Gord Leidal, president of the Mature Action Committee (MAC), which has been lobbying for seniors housing for more than a decade.

"Seniors tend to put these things off (moving out of their family homes and into seniors housing) until they really have to."

He points not only to the challenging economic times but also the lacklustre sales for seniors housing at the athletes' village.

Despite the initial interest in that opportunity - six townhouses and 18 apartment units - sales were not strong. Of the 24 units offered, just 10 were sold in the presale phase.

Leidal explained that there were specific challenges with that project, now known as Cheakamus Crossing, which Rainbow will not be faced with. The units, for example, were not in a specific seniors housing complex with dedicated amenities for seniors. Most did not have covered or underground parking. And the apartment units were a little on the small side.

The Rainbow opportunity is much different.

Rainbow's managing partner, Rod Nadeau, was on hand at MAC's Annual General Meeting last week to drum up excitement for the seniors housing in the new subdivision.

He explained that the 20 per cent deposit is what the bank requires - Rainbow needs the value of the presales to equal the value of the bank loan.

But if Rainbow designs something seniors are keen to purchase, sales should follow.

On the drawing board are 40 units in two side-by-side complexes with all the amenities seniors may need.

"We have to design something that they want to move to," said Nadeau. "We can actually tailor it to what they want, need and can afford."

Some of the ideas now discussed among the developers are incorporating a secure underground garage with bike and ski storage, maximizing the roof space with a large outdoor deck, and designing the buildings to capitalize on the views.

Rainbow has hired a project coordinator for the seniors housing component and plans include workshops with MAC members to really pinpoint the best kind of housing for Whistler's seniors.

"I think it's fair to say there's quite a bit of excitement over Rainbow's proposal for housing," said Leidal.

Yet many MAC members are still holding out for the much-anticipated Holborn project, directly north of the village by the tennis club, which is set to bring housing, a revamped tennis club and a seniors' complex.

The project has stalled with no signs of when it may be back on track. The developer, the Holborn Group, recently pulled out of the half-billion-dollar Ritz-Carlton condo project in downtown Vancouver due to the worldwide economic turmoil.

Meanwhile MAC's membership is continuing to grow, up 20 per cent in the last year.

Work is continuing with the seniors' needs assessment group with an online survey.

Sue Lawther, chairman of the Seniors Needs Assessment Focus Group, is encouraging not only the 5 per cent of the population who are over 65 years old to participate in the online survey but also the more than 20 per cent of the population from 45 to 64. The survey is designed to collect data about all sorts of seniors issues, from accessibility to doctors to ease of transportation around town.

Only with updated data can politicians be lobbied to make changes, said Lawther.

The survey can be found on MAC's website at www.whistlermac.org.

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