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Plans for Rainbow seniors housing near completion

Project will feature eight townhouse-style units



The Mature Action Committee is in the process of deciding between two design options for what will be eight new townhouse-style units on Lot 10 in Rainbow, and should make a final decision by next week. That decision will be taken to the MAC board meeting in September and, if it is approved, MAC will ask a quantity surveyor to determine what the costs will be.

If the costs are in MAC's ballpark, and enough seniors are interested to put a down payment, then work could start in 2012.

The eight units put forward is a far cry from the 20-unit apartment-style project that was proposed for Lot 10 - which was itself one of two resident-restricted seniors housing projects proposed for Rainbow, with council rejecting a previous project because of the high cost per square and another project next door being shelved due to the lack of interest.

Gord Leidal, who has represented MAC in the housing initiative, said the designs will be attractive to seniors but they will have to wait and see if there is interest.

"We're gong with the reduced number of eight as opposed to 16 to 20 so the number of presales required is significantly less, and maybe it will be easier to achieve," said Leidal. "The townhome design may be more efficient and affordable than the direction we were going in. You don't have all the common space and the elevators, or underground parking which is fairly costly."

The 20-unit building would have come at a cost of $331 per square foot, which is higher than most seniors were willing to pay.

In one design brought to MAC, all of the units would be one floor and would be accessed with ramps instead of stairs. Another split-level concept also includes ramps on the outside.

"There would be sufficient space in bathrooms and kitchens so a wheelchair can move around, the doorways would be made a little wider. There would be areas that are reinforced for grab bars so they can be added when needed," explained Leidal.

The first seniors housing offered in Whistler has been relatively successful. At Cheakamus Crossing, six townhouse units set aside for MAC's housing list are occupied by seniors, although just five of the 18 apartments set aside for seniors are occupied by seniors at this time - although they will be offered first to seniors again when they come available. The lack of covered parking was an issue for seniors in that building said Leidal.

There are a few factors holding seniors back, said Leidal. One is the fact that most seniors would prefer to live near the village to be close to doctors, pharmacies, grocery stores and other amenities, and they're waiting for the project proposed as part of the Holborn development by the tennis courts.

Another factor is the decline in house prices, and a reluctance by seniors to sell when the market is low. "A lot have homes and they're trying to downsize into something more appropriate, but they need the equity and there's so much uncertainty relative to real estate that they have difficulty in saying yes," said Leidal.

If there was no interest in Rainbow, Leidal said they would likely sit on the land and bring the project back in a year to see if there is more interest.