A groundbreaking ceremony was held Saturday

Changing the housing landscape for retirees in Chilliwack

Universal design elements will be built into new condos in Chilliwack with future accessibility needs of baby boomers in mind

It’s a new condo development that will change the housing landscape for retirees — in Chilliwack and across the province.

Ground was broken last week on the Englewood Courtyard project, located on a 2.75 acre property on Keith Wilson Road.

The first phase will see construction of a $10.5 million apartment building with 40 units, set to become the tallest wood-frame structure in Chilliwack at five storeys, specifically crafted for baby boomers.

“We are thrilled to be breaking ground for our Englewood Courtyard project and proud to partner with both the B.C. government and SAFERhome Standards Society to create homes that will meet the changing needs of homeowners as they age,” said Mark Perry of Englewood Courtyard Management before the groundbreaking ceremony.

He offered facts and figures, floating the notion that two groups of B.C. baby boomers will be looking to downsize, buy down, and free up equity in the next 15 years or so. The younger cohort has existing mortgages, while the older group of boomers has free and clear title to their homes worth an estimated $88 billion dollars in B.C., Perry noted.

So it’s only logical to start building housing stock with all of this in mind, he told the crowd.

“In seeing these population demographics it is ever apparent that we, as developers, should build products that buyers of today and in the future will want,” Perry said.

“It makes no sense at all to build a condo building with the wrong design for the baby boomer of the future.”

The number of 65- to 74-year-olds in the B.C. by 2027 will rise 69 per cent, from 191,000 to 322,000 people.

The project is a leasehold development on Tzeachten First Nation land.

The groundbreaking was also an opportunity to announce a pilot research project, between BC Housing’s Homeowner Protection Office, SAFERhome Standards Society and the developer, looking at the true costs and benefits of the 19-point list of universal design elements set to be used in Englewood Courtyard construction.

“Universal design” is geared to planning for changing lifestyles and accessibility needs, such as installing lower light switches, no thresholds and wider doorways, which make it easier for seniors to age in place. One feature focuses on a high-tech solution, linking phone lines, video and computer systems.

But most of the standards don’t cost anything extra to implement and install if they’re incorporated into the initial design from the get-go.

“Universal design is about everyone,” said SAFERhome standards executive director Patrick Simpson in the release. “It’s a way of keeping children safer, a way of more easily having grandparents live or visit at home, and a way to age in place with dignity.

“Universal design creates more inclusive communities and supports inter-generational living.”

It’s a first research project of its kind for the non-profit SAFERhome Standards Society, which together with Englewood Courtyard developers, will be incorporating the universal standards into the multi-unit residential complex.

The province through HPO is providing $93,600 to cover SAFERhome inspection and certification costs for all 156 units.

“Making homes more accessible for those who wish to age in place is an important step in helping B.C. residents remain independent in the community,” said Chilliwack MLA John Martin.

“Our government will continue to seek out and support innovative solutions that meet the diverse housing needs of British Columbians at all stages of life.”

The research study connected with the Englewood project will be completed and published in 2015.

For more on affordable housing in B.C. visit: www.bchousing.org or www.hpo.bc.ca

To learn more about the 19 universal design standards: www.saferhomesociety.com

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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