Johanna Oostveen remembers the very first day she set foot in McVittie Place.
Don McVittie presented a picture of the site where the McVittie Place seniors home now sits to District of Muskoka Chair John Klinck during the facility's grand opening on Thursday, July 5. The McVittie family previously owned the plot of land where the seniors home was built, but conveyed it to the Pines Board of Management in 1958. (Photo by Louis Tam)
A resident of the Pine Street seniors residence, Oostveen spoke about the leap of faith she and her husband made by moving there over a year ago during the facility’s grand opening ceremony on Thursday, July 5. Built with $9.6 million from the provincial and federal governments, the 80-apartment complex welcomed its first residents on June 21 last year.
Oostveen was one of the first residents who moved into McVittie Place that day.
“We went to the elevator to the third floor and viewed our apartment for the first time. We had never been in the building so we just moved,” she said. “It has been more than a year since we moved in, and we sincerely and wholeheartedly say we love living here in this beautiful building.”
She praised the building’s designers for creating a home that allows residents to interact and socialize with their neighbours through a variety of shared spaces, activity venues and common areas.
“This is a great place to live and nobody has to be live alone, and everybody is watching out for each other,” she said.
The event was attended by a large number of provincial, federal and municipal dignitaries.
Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement lauded the building as a collaborative effort between three levels of government and the local community. Construction on McVittie Place had began just a few years after a fire completely destroyed the Rowanwood Retirement Home in Huntsville, taking away a significant number of affordable housing units available for seniors in Muskoka.
“We had just a series of events, including the fire in Huntsville that actually took out some units that were used for seniors, as well as others who need low-income housing available to them,” said Clement. “We all know that the need was there. We still have needs, but the fact of the matter is that having these 80 units here, having all levels of government come together with the community made this happen. It was exactly what our community needed.”
Members of the McVittie family were also in attendance during the grand opening. The family were the original owners of the site where the home now sits.
Don McVittie presented District of Muskoka Chair John Klinck with a framed picture, depicting the home’s current site as it appeared in the 1930s. The family conveyed the site to the Pines Board of Management in 1958.
“They were looking for a place that was simple, and I think this is why they felt this was the right place,” he said.
The grand opening was also attended by Huntsville Coun. Fran Coleman, a vocal advocate for affordable housing and an instrumental figure in McVittie Place’s conception.
“This apartment offers seniors affordable rent, and we are nestled within a community partner — within the Rotary gardens — and the current Pines facility,” she said. “We had many good names to call this site, but certainly McVittie Place was a perfect name for this building.”
She also took the opportunity to remind attending dignitaries that the need for affordable housing in Muskoka remains great.
“While we celebrate our achievements and while we recognize that much work is still needed to be done, the wait list for social and affordable housing in Muskoka has grown from 300 to 600 in the last five years,” she said. “I know there’s dollars coming down, but based on the needs here in Muskoka, they’re not enough.”
In order for the community to address broader social issues, Coleman said all levels of government must continue to cooperate in addressing the need for affordable housing.
“They can’t get on with their lives, they can’t deal with health issues, they can’t deal with social problems, they can’t even deal with an addiction unless they have a roof over their head,” she said.