Canada Needs Abbeyfield

“In 20 years, the number of seniors in Canada is expected to double. This has enormous implications for our country and its thousands of communities …”

Raymond Louie
President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Close to 700,000 senior-led Canadian Households face a housing affordability challenge. We need to pause and consider that statistic for a moment. We would also do well to remember that behind every number is a person. In this case, an older adult who has contributed to the success of our society but who may be struggling to make ends meet today.

Affordable housing options for seniors are limited in Canada, and housing generally is becoming less affordable. Nearly one in three senior-led Households in Canada’s larger cities and communities are renters, and almost one in two senior-led Households that do rent face affordability challenges. Moreover, units in seniors’ residences typically command high prices. For Canada as a whole, the average monthly rent for an apartment in a seniors’ residence in 2012 was 2.5 times the cost of rent in the private market.

Yet, contrary to a popular assumption, most Canadian seniors are not affluent. They tend to live on modest incomes and face challenges to their economic security. Many have also seen their private savings and pension incomes erode in recent years. Combined with the ever-rising cost of living, many seniors are finding it tough to afford even basic food and shelter. The most vulnerable seniors among them are those with low incomes who live alone and who lack the support of a spouse or family member under the same roof.

The sheer cost of private seniors’ residences, low rental vacancy rates and a decline in government investment in social housing have reduced the affordable housing options for Canadian seniors. As our population ages, this housing affordability challenge will only worsen. Unless we do something about it now. The Abbeyfield concept can offer many Canadian seniors an affordable, beneficial and life-enhancing alternative — if only we could establish more Houses in more communities.