BRACEBRIDGE - Lack of transit sent them packing out west. The expense of living brought them back.
HOME SWEET HOME.
Ron and Linda Irwin have lived at McVittie Place for almost a year since they came back from an unfortunate move to Western Canada. They are not concerned about a potential 3.1 per cent rent increase at the residence.
Photo by Jennifer Bowman
Ron and Linda Irwin travelled 3,000 miles to Vancouver Island searching for a better transit system than Bracebridge. The transit was better, but they could barely survive because of the cost of living. Sixteen months later they ended up back home — at McVittie Place in Bracebridge.
They say they’re not concerned about a $17 increase in their monthly rent.
Pension should cover the difference, because the cheques go up a little bit each year, said Ron.
On March 8 the District of Muskoka planning and economic committee agreed to increase rent 3.1 per cent at McVittie Place, an 80-apartment, district-owned senior citizen residence that opened in April 2011. The raise is recommended by the province to keep up with current housing costs.
Beginning in November one-bedroom apartments will cost $614, an increase of $17 from last year, and two-bedroom apartments will cost $738, an increase of $21.
For residents like Marlene Manning, the raise is a little more concerning. Manning said the increase is going to strain things a bit.
Food is the last thing on her list, she said. First comes rent, hydro and gas.
After thinking about it, she said, “I might be able to manage on that.”
“I don’t buy new clothes or stuff like that, or fancy food,” she said. “I don’t go to theatres.”
If the rent went up $25, she said, she’d have trouble.
Manning said she’s pretty good at managing with very little. She said she doesn’t know how others in the building will take it.
“They seem to be OK. Some of them are wearing good-looking clothes, that sort of thing,” she said.
McVittie is the first social housing of its kind on such a large scale in Muskoka. The District of Muskoka has implemented a new form of rent for social housing, which comes down from the provincial government. Instead of residents paying 30 per cent of their gross monthly income for rent, as is usual for social housing, they pay 80 per cent of the housing cost while the district covers the remaining 20 per cent.
For most residents, that’s a steal.
The Irwins proudly showed the residence’s Muskoka room where a monthly birthday bash is held, with a movie room with Blu-ray abilities, and an expansive porch.
It’s the best place they’ve lived in their 20 years of marriage, said Linda.
Rick Williams, commissioner of Muskoka community services, said in the future they’re looking at operating all social housing in Muskoka on a rent system like that at McVittie.
“Our wait list is growing dramatically under the current system,” said Williams.
He said it’s sort of like winning the lottery, but once you do, you have it all handed to you.
The new system is fairer and more sustainable, he said. And more people will benefit.
“We can probably afford more subsidies based on that monthly amount,” he said. “The problem with the old subsidy is that the less you made the more it cost us and there was no incentive for people to maximize their earnings.”
Both Manning and the Irwins moved to McVittie from other social housing arrangements.
There are 600 applicants on the wait list for social housing in Muskoka. Right now the wait list for a single adult wanting to move into rent-geared-to-income housing is three to five years.
Those eligible for McVittie Place must be 65 years or older.
The Irwins didn’t think they’d be able to get in.
“Out West we’d get on the net and watch them build this,” said Ron.
“We thought, oh boy, these will be all taken because everybody would grab them like that,” said Linda.
Around Christmas 2011 they heard about the opening, but were told they had to be Ontario residents before they would be able to apply.
They moved into a pastor’s sun porch for a period of time before finally getting into McVittie Place.
Now that they’re back home, they’re not about to complain about a rent increase.
Rent is only allowed to increase once every 12 months. Community services first presented the District of Muskoka with a request for the increase in February. The district voted to grant the request at their meeting on March 26.
Most residents were already at 102 Pine Street last April, but some of the residences filled over the next few months. The district decided to delay the rent increase until November so most of the residents would have lived there for at least a year.
Williams said he hasn’t heard any complaints about rent at McVittie.
“I guess we’re not hearing that, because the griefs that we are hearing are the people who are on the wait list for long periods of time receiving no subsidy.”