As he rolls his wheelchair through his one-bedroom suite, Louis Amadei takes a grateful approach to life.
“Everything here is easy to clean, the light switches are low, I can [roll under] the stove, and if I ever need any help there’s always someone helpful downstairs,” said Amadei, one of 45 tenants at the Cool Aid Society’s new supported housing building, Cottage Grove.
The building, at Quadra Street and Tolmie Avenue, is Cool Aid’s fourth building dedicated to seniors, who are about 50 and over. It opened early in 2017, funded by the Canada-B.C. Investment in Affordable Housing ($6 million), the Capital Regional District ($675,000), Saanich ($112,000) and Victoria ($112,000).
“Eight months in things are going really well here,” said Don McTavish, manager of residential services and shelters with Cool Aid. “This gives us another option for tenants who might have been higher risk but, over the years, have settled down and can come here. In turn, that opens spaces to high risk people out there in need of a home.”
There is staff at Cottage Grove, from about 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rent is $375 plus $100 for the meals, though some tenants pay more if they work (income checks are done annually).
Cottage Grove takes its name from the construction business that once existed on the site, owned by Herman and Vicki Rebneris. Vicki sold it to Cool Aid after Herman died. The couple was already familiar with Cool Aid, as Herman’s company built Cool Aid’s FairWay Woods development, 32 units for seniors in Langford.
With Cottage Grove, mobility and design are at the forefront. The basement boasts a bed bug room (a bare room equipped with heaters accessible from inside and outside) that eradicates the pest from tenant belongings before they move in. There’s also a bike storage room. Beside the handle to every front door is a small ledge where one can put their coffee or another item while retrieving their keys.
The laminate floors look sharp and maintain well. All units have a kitchen, and there’s also one hot meal delivered per day, pre-assembled at Cool Aid’s Rock Bay Landing shelter.
“Most tenants do their own cleaning but we do offer honorariums to those who help other tenants clean their suites,” McTavish said.
Next in line for Cool Aid, which is continuing its 2013 pledge to create 360 affordable housing units in Greater Victoria, is to gain rezoning approval for Mount Edwards Court on Vancouver Street. Cool Aid took over the hospital-zoned building in 2016 and quickly filled all 38 suites, mostly with people from Tent City.
On Oct. 13 Mount Edwards Court won council’s approval to approve an additional 40 suites on the second floor and, the eventual addition of 15 affordable housing units on the third floor.
Cool Aid also expects to have 52 people into the converted Tally Ho motel on Douglas, using a temporary use permit from Victoria.
“Half of our applicants apply because of affordability issues,” said Cool Aid CEO Kathy Stinson. “We could easily build 10 more [Cottage Grove projects] and fill them.”
For Amadei, having his own place is about dignity.
“I like the neighbours but I like my privacy [too],” Amadei said. “If I die [here] in some years, I will die in a decent way.”