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9 Housing Options for Seniors in Canada (Including Independent Low-Income Living)

group of seniors in retirement home living room Future Image for article 9 Housing Options for Seniors in Canada
Affordable housing options for seniors on a low income.

Many of us are looking for affordable housing options for seniors on a low income. And more and more Canadians are helping aging parents and loved ones to find a place where they can live independently. They are searching for senior housing, relocation, or in-home support services.  

Some senior housing options consist of market-rent units while others are a combination of both market-rent and Rent-Geared to-income units. This type of residence may also be referred to as affordable, subsidized, or assisted housing.

  • If you are considering your senior living options and not sure where to start?
  • If you are looking for information that will help you to make a confident decision?

I can help you.

Do you know that in ten years, one in four Canadians will be over 65 years? I am one of the latest baby boomers and just entering my senior years.  Like most of you, I want to age at home, but I have no retirement savings to afford it and because of that started to research affordable housing options available to seniors in Canada.

At some point in your life, you probably also will be faced with the decision of finding a more affordable place to live for yourself or a family member.

Independent Living housing options for seniors with or without money

Finding an affordable independent place to live may seem daunting, so understanding what’s available is the first step.

In the list below you will find housing options for seniors with low-income and no money saved for retirement and some luxury options as well.

According to Statistics of Canada, there are 430,000 Canadians with unmet home care needs (as of 2021). As part of your retirement planning, you should look at the effect that an independent retirement residence or care facility would have on your finances.

I’ll guide you through everything you need to know about your senior living options in no time. From:

Only your savings and health will dictate which option you choose.

1. Senior’s Apartments Known as Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC)

Apartments, where seniors live, are often referred to as Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities or NORCs. These are communities where older adults either remain or move into when they retire. They are often defined as housing developments that are not planned or designed for older adults, but which over time come to house largely older people.

Here’s a personal story to explain what a NORC is. Mary rents an apartment in South Burlington. It’s a nice location near the lake, and she loves living there. It was worth the wait – she was on the building’s waitlist for almost five years, slowly working her way up the list before securing a market-rent unit. Because she knew it was a good fit for her lifestyle, she got on the waitlist before she retired.

One of the best things about the apartment is the number of older people in the building. It’s not a senior building per se as there are no age-based restrictions but the majority of residents are older adults. She’s got an active social life. Joining in card games and exercise classes with other residents, walking to the nearby senior’s centre for art classes and the library.

And there’s a bus stop across from her building entrance that takes her to the Appleby GO train, so she can make a trip into Toronto whenever she wants to see her city friends. She also joined the local church with her neighbour from down the hall.

NORCs are highly sought after, and many have waitlists. These communities exist in various forms and locations including neighborhoods of apartments, so-operatives, social housing, registered condominiums, and single-family houses.

NOTE: In Toronto 489 residential buildings are classified as NORCs.

For more information – Healthy Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities: A Low-Cost Approach to Facilitating Healthy Aging.

group of seniors in over 55 retirement and adult lifestyle communities
Over-55 Retirement and Adult Lifestyle Communities.

2. Over-55 Retirement and Adult Lifestyle Communities

Many adult lifestyle communities are planned and managed by a real estate developer. Often these age-restricted communities provide residents with organized activities, common areas, and shared facilities. This is not to be confused with the independent and assisted living retirement communities.

Properties may be designed with an older person’s needs in mind, as well as providing easy access to amenities such as health care services.

The ownership structure of these housing arrangements varies depending on the individual property. Ranging from condo ownership, where the buyer owns their unit with monthly fees, to a life lease housing arrangement with indefinite usage, to a standard landlord/tenancy rental contract where the rental term is defined.

Some of these properties operate as non-regulated Retirement Homes providing a limited number of care services and meals to residents requiring assistance. Other adult lifestyle communities are designed exclusively for independent living purposes.

Ontario has several adult-style communities with the same resort-style amenities offered in American communities. Many of these communities feature waterfront living in luxury homes built with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly design.

Here are just a few of Canada’s amenity-rich active adult communities:

  1. Ballantrae Golf and Country Club, Ballantrae
  2. Wellington on the Lake, Picton
  3. Stonecroft, New Hamburg
  4. Brighton by the Bay, Presqu’ile Bay
  5. Foxboro Green, Stratford

3. Independent And Assisted Living

Independent living means different things to each of us. For older people, independent living may mean aging in place in their family home. For others, it means downsizing to an adult lifestyle community, senior apartment, or a congregate living setting like a Retirement Home, designed with seniors in mind.

Some congregated living settings are a combination of independent living units, collocated with assisted living units and memory care facilities. So, in the event, an elderly requires additional care they will receive additional services without moving to a new facility.

For example, independent living units in Retirement homes will provide minimum services such as housekeeping, laundry services, and meal preparation.

Residents often have access to common spaces, scheduled social and exercise activities, on-site medical support, a shuttle bus for excursions, and an in-room kitchenette. Some may offer memory care programs within the same facilities that offer independent and assisted living.

Retirement Homes tend to be owned privately (not by the government) and operate as for-profit businesses.

Government Subsidized LTC Homes

4. Government Subsidized Long-Term Care homes (LTC)

When people require 24-hours care, they often consider Long Term Care homes as a senior living option.

The cost of LTC homes is regulated and funded in part by the Government of Ontario. Residents contribute to the cost of room and board. You will continue to receive the government income supplements you are currently receiving.

HOW TO APPLY FOR SUBSIDIZED LONG CARE HOMES?

Some of the properties have 10 years waitlist. To access LTC, contact your Local Health Integration Network placement coordinator or health care department to start an application process.

WHAT IS THE COST FOR SUBSIDIZED LONG CARE HOMES?

Costs vary depending on the type of accommodation (shared, two-bedroom, etc.) and range from $1,900 to $2,700 per month. A portion of the monthly charges for accommodation and care will be provincially subsidized according to annual net income.

ADMISSION

Once you are notified a room is available, you may have to accept that room within 48 hours. You will therefore have to pay for accommodation in two places during the transition period, that is, your home and retirement home.

Some resources to consider and consult:

Image of pages from the ultimate retirement residence tour checklist

5. Government Subsidized Housing for Seniors: Rent-Geared-To-Income Housing

Rent-Geared to-Income (RGI) units generally involve a housing subsidy or benefit to qualifying households to make rent affordable.

For example, the rent for a Rent-Geared to-Income unit may be a percentage of the household’s total monthly income, before taxes and adjustments. Often this subsidy is paid directly to the landlord.

While some properties have age restrictions, others are designed to accommodate a combination of singles, families, and older people.

How to apply for a subsidized senior Rent-Geared To-Income RGI assisted housing program?

Accessing affordable housing involves an application process. If you’re interested in these properties, you should start the application process as soon as possible directly with the property manager because many properties operate with a three-year waitlist for market-rent units.

Applications are available online or at various county offices, housing providers, and other community agencies.

Who Qualifies for low-income RGI housing?

Anyone may apply for Rent-Geared to-Income subsidized housing if they meet the following criteria:

  • At least one of the members of the household must be 16 years of age or older and able to live independently.
  • All household members must be Canadian Citizens, Landed Immigrants, or Refugee claimants.
  • No member has been convicted of misrepresentation of income in relation to RGI assistance
  • Household members have pursued the required source of income

Household income must be within the established limit by type of units as follows (subject to yearly revision)

Type of UnitHousehold Income Limit
Bachelor$ 24,500
1 Bedroom$ 31,000
2 Bedroom$ 38,000
3 Bedroom$ 43,500
4 Bedroom$ 54,000
These amounts are subject to change on an annual basis. Effective date: April 2018

Some resources to consider and consult:

6. Affordable Housing Options for Seniors: Co-Operative Housing

Housing co-operatives (‘co-ops’) are a popular senior living option. Housing co-ops provide at-cost housing for their members. They are controlled by members who have a vote in decisions. There is no outside landlord.

Many are a combination of market rent, barrier-free and Rent-Geared-to-Income units.

HOW TO APPLY TO LIVE IN A HOUSING CO-OPERATIVE?

If you want to live in a housing co-op, you need to apply to become a co-op member, which in turn is subject to the approval of the co-op board members.

The process for admitting new members is set out in the housing co-op’s bylaws or rules.

Due to their popularity, some of these housing co-ops were not accepting member applications while others had a five-year waitlist.

Some resources to consider and consult: Co-operative Housing Canada

7 Co-Housing, Home Sharing Arrangements
7 Co-Housing, Home Sharing Arrangements

7. co-housing and home-sharing

Co-housing typically involves unrelated people buying a property with the intention of living together. The simplest way to explain home-sharing is simply an exchange of services between a homeowner and a housemate or renter.

Some of you may be familiar with ‘Golden Girls’, a 1980’s American television sitcom. The storyline revolved around the lives of a group of older women living in Miami, Florida.

Fast forward to August 2019, and Bill 69, informally known as the ‘Golden Girls Act’, is currently before a standing committee of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

The goal of this Bill is to amend the province’s Planning Act, clarifying its application by municipalities in respect of unrelated seniors occupying a housekeeping unit, property, or building.

Depending on the needs of the group, there may be shared common areas or separate units within a complex of units. Cost of property expenses or cares services can be shared.  

🖋NOTE: This arrangement may be a good option for an older homeowner interested in sharing their home, in exchange for services or cost-sharing. Depending on the circumstances, the services exchanged will vary. For example, home maintenance tasks like snow shoveling and grass cutting may be exchanged for reduced market rent.

Some resources to consider and consult: Co-housing Communities

8. Luxury Apartments

Today’s seniors want in-suite laundry, open floor plans, modern finishes, shopping nearby, access to community centers, with a high walkability score. And with property managers that recognize their unique needs.

Luxury apartments are rental properties designed with baby boomers and older adults in mind.

These properties are conveniently located near major transportation links, in-unit laundry, common areas for entertaining friends and families, storage lockers and underground parking, and amenities that are top of mind for those who downsize from their family homes.

Residents in Luxury Apartments range from millennials, families, baby boomers as well as single seniors.

RENTAL COSTS for this residence tend to be toward the upper end of the market ($4,000 – $7,000 a month).

9. Life Lease Housing

Life Lease Housing is often marketed as adult 55 or older lifestyle communities.

In life leasing housing, the buyer does not own the property. The life leaseholder holds an interest in that property, rather than owning the unit itself, with no limit on the lease time.

Typically, these communities provide residents with access to common areas and shared facilities. Residents may also take an active role in managing the property and organizing activities and programs.

How Much Life-lease Housing Cost?

Purchase remits an initial 25% deposit and then pays monthly condo-like fees to cover costs for building maintenance, common utilities, and management fees.

A non-profit life lease is considered one of the most stable rental structures on the Canadian market. Rates are often set by a non-profit and may go up only due to an increase in utility rates or civic property taxes.

Generally, life leasing is more affordable than purchasing a similar unit in the traditional housing market due to the cot-for-profit orientation of the sponsoring organizations.

🖋NOTE: It’s very challenging to get accepted, some of the properties have waitlists as turnover is not frequent.

Some resources to consider and consult:  Life Lease communities, the facts

How to Research and select the right Retirement Location for your needs?

You want to select a senior independent living facility that best matches your needs and lifestyle preferences.

You need to do comparison shopping!

Also, you may be able to have your name on the waiting list for several facilities, you will probably need to accept the first one that comes up.

Image of pages from the ultimate retirement residence tour checklist

When you go to visit different places it’s best to go with a family member or a friend to help you out. You don’t want to make a hasty decision.

  1. Consider your wishes before you start the process.
  2. Make a list of your needs and wants. The retirement Residence Comparison Checklist (free download) will provide you with an excellent guide.
  3. Shortlist senior residences by requesting information about them by email.
  4. Schedule a tour of at least three places.
  5. Visit the same residence at different times of day, evening, and weekend.
  6. Talk to the resident staff.
  7. Attend a few activities and try a meal or two.
  8. Ask for copies of any paperwork required for admission, along with samples of activity calendars, newsletters, and menus.

NOTE: In some cases, a residence will let you stay a night to get an impression.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I find a Retirement Residency?

There are some private agencies established to help you find a residency that meets your budget and needs. You can find them by doing a Google search for “Retirement Communities and Homes”, “Community Care Facilities”, and “Senior Citizen’s Services and Centres”.

How much does a retirement residence cost?

Retirement residence rate can vary depending on the location, degree of quality, room size, and nature of amenities and services provided. Prices can range from $1,500 a month to $7,000 a month or more. Some luxury apartments are like a cruise ship on land.

Does Canada have subsidized housing for seniors?

Supportive housing across Canada offers government-subsidized health and personal care services to residents living in housing that’s often subsidized, wholly or in part, based on income.

What is considered a low-income seniors in Canada?

A single senior earning less than $$29,285 or a senior couple whose combined income amounts to $47,545 or less is considered to be a low-income senior.

TAKE AWAY

We looked at what senior housing options are available in Canada and what is the difference between them.

As you can see, there are many issues to consider when making your selection. The right decision will enhance your quality of life and mental, emotional, and physical health.

When you are looking for a place to leave in your retirement, focus on what you want, not what anyone else thinks you should want. After all, you will be the one living there.

Image of pages from the ultimate retirement residence tour checklist

OTHER SOURCES:

Thanks for reading the article about different senior housing options – I hope you found it helpful. As always, I’d love to hear from you! Have a fabulous week and take care! Irina Nikitina – Founder of Modern Fifty TV

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