Not for sale: Kildonan House to remain low-cost seniors housing

Cliff Bancroft, DeMezy Memorial Society chairperson, adjusts the radiator in one of the suites at Kildonan House. The radiator leaks in some suites, a fix that will bring a large repair bill. - Sharon Tiffin/News staff
Cliff Bancroft, DeMezy Memorial Society chairperson, adjusts the radiator in one of the suites at Kildonan House. The radiator leaks in some suites, a fix that will bring a large repair bill.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

The residents of a heritage mansion can rest easy after a period of uncertainty around their home.

Earlier this year, the non-profit society that owns and operates Kildonan House at 931 Foul Bay Rd. considered selling the 1913 Samuel Maclure mansion. The necessary repairs on the building, they said, were becoming too big a burden.

“The society’s board resolved (that) it will continue to operate it as a seniors’ rental apartment,” said Cliff Bancroft, chair and treasurer of the DeMezey Memorial Abbeyfield Housing Society.

“The change of attitude is because of the support given by various groups that spoke out about the house.”

He clarified the house was never really for sale, but when the society thought about selling, several potential buyers caught wind and submitted offers “out of the blue.”

“Once we got a lot of people speaking about it, they wanted (the house) to continue as it was – and the board thought it was best to keep it going.”

The residents are “all delighted,” Bancroft said.

“We had, at the time, a couple of vacancies. One person had passed away and another was not able to get up the stairs anymore.”

Now the lower-rent house is full, with seven tenants living there. Keeping these low-rent accommodations for seniors in Oak Bay is critical, said Coun. Pam Copley.

“We have to have a balance of market rate, which is represented by Carlton House. We know there are seniors who cannot afford that rate.

“The interesting aspect of the DeMezey society is they run it almost as a co-op and it’s something that I, myself, would be interested in.”

Rental rates at the mansion are controlled by a loan agreement with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. A unit costs between $600 and $925 a month.

The 10,765-square-foot building does need major upgrades to its plumbing and heating system.

Volunteer maintenance workers frequently fix leaks that prevent radiators in some rooms from pumping out enough heat, for example.

In February, when the society was considering selling, then-chair Alun Rees told the News that revenue from rent wasn’t enough to keep up with maintenance.

“All those kinds of things will need work,” he said.

“There’s always something going wrong. It’s kind of a fingers crossed situation.”

The society’s revenues, and therefore the money available for maintenance, comes solely from suite rentals.

– with files from Vivian Moreau

Did you know?

• Kildonan House, at 931 Foul Bay Rd., has an assessed value of more than $2 million.

• The late Albert DeMezy, an engineer, donated the house to the society in the late 1980s.

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