House prices are high; affordability is always an issue. Many seniors continue to live in the homes where they raised families, which is fine. I would never tell someone how or where to live. I also understand the emotional attachment that people can have to their houses (correction: homes). But the reality is that some seniors are in large homes that are becoming harder and harder for them to maintain. So why do they stay? In some cases it is because they have no viable (or acceptable) living alternatives within their own neighbourhoods. Some early deaths may be caused by house-related stress and loneliness. Other seniors are stubborn. Again, that is their choice and I respect that.
I am going to write about the need for more senior housing in Ward 3. I will make some observations on how it should be designed and integrated into the community. I am going to give some advice to those living in condos. I am going to talk about Elder Abuse and how we can prevent it. Finally, I will make a few statements about landlords and what we can do to improve the sightlines of low-rent apartments all in my attempt to bring affordability and pride to the North Side.
Ward 3 Needs More Senior Housing in Order to Give Seniors Choice and a Sense of Community.
People should not be confined to certain living quarters based on a lack of choice. Nor should it be expected that seniors will move to another part of the city to chase available spaces. Let me be clear, seniors should always feel safe and welcome in a home of their choosing, but when they are ready to downsize—they should be able to do so in the area of the city they choose. If you spent several decades in Castle Downs, for example, it would be silly to expect you to move to Mill Woods.
When seniors move out of their long-term houses, they free up space within our mature communities for new families to enter. As supply of new homes becomes available, the costs come down. This allows our neighbourhoods to renew, and for new children to enter the neighbourhoods.
As seniors move to more appropriate sized accommodations, they also save money in upkeep costs. As larger spaces are freed, housing for new families become more affordable.
Investment in Senior Housing to Improve Lifestyle
Generally, I am not referring to assisted-living or hospice facilities—just homes for healthy older adults. Senior housing should have a sense of community and age-appropriate appealing amenities. Group activities and gardens should be suited for the lifestyle of older adults.
In order to achieve an appropriate density and critical mass for social events, these buildings should be low-rise walk-up apartment style, with large common areas (including party rooms, libraries, and theatres). In all cases, I advocate for suitable businesses to be located on the main level of these complexes that could employ some of the seniors (coffee shops, sewing/quilting supply stores, pharmacies, yoga studios, even daycares). While every individual is different, some want to work into their tender years. I support independence as long as possible. Part-time employment can help fulfill important gaps in the lives of some people. As for daycares, there is always a need and many seniors would be suitable for the job.
These housing facilities should also include features that appeal to those visiting their older family members. If the teenagers have a place to play, during a prolonged visit, then the adults can spend more quality time with their parents (the seniors). Everyone in the family should enjoy the visit. If any part of a family dreads visiting then, simply put, the family may visit less. As a result, with less family visiting, the senior may become lonely and their quality of life may suffer. These residences should be designed to encourage family bonding while staying true to the lifestyle desired by most seniors.
What the City Can Do To Create These Conditions
When the City is in possession of land that was never meant to become a park, for example, including but not limited to surplus school sites, it can offer an incentive to developers to construct seniors housing in the manner I suggested. While a modest incentive may be required, the reinvestment in the community will outweigh the cost of the incentive. It is generally desirable to encourage the private sector to meet civic goals if, and only if, clear guidelines are put in place. To an extent this is already happening, but I think we can do better.
The Building Code should be amended to explicitly recognize senior housings as distinct from other housing forms. Currently there is no requirement to add additional elevators, handicapped parking spaces, or accessible bathrooms for senior dwellings. The regulations are the same for any apartment style development. Add-ons are only installed voluntarily by the builder. We should be able to categorize housing based on expected occupants.
I would also suggest that changes to the Zoning Bylaw may be required. The type of indoor and outdoor amenity space that I mentioned, as well as inclusion of small commercial uses, should be permitted within senior housing. A few bylaw amendments would be required, sure, but then we could ensure high-quality living spaces for seniors. If the private sector will develop these dwellings, we could have confidence that they will do it right. They will have marching orders and appropriate parameters.
So-called “granny suites” are also a desirable option. These allow seniors to move in with their adult-children in a dedicated living space, within a home. Granny-suites allow privacy and semi-autonomy. They ensure that family is close but not always in one’s face (if the door is closed). Granny-suites are not Secondary Suites. Secondary Suites contain many onerous regulations that are sometimes difficult to implement when retrofitting a house. One reason for all of the regulations is to protect ‘strangers’ from each other (e.g. doors have to be solid-core lockable, etc.). As granny-suites are meant for family, the rules are relaxed. Further, if it can be demonstrated that tax-incentives for granny-suites will save the taxpayer money in the long-run, then City Council should explore wide-spread promotion of these. Having seniors move out of their larger older houses to move-in with their adult-children will free up housing for others, thereby increasing the supply of housing (putting pressure on prices to drop). These can also help with family bonding (and babysitting).
Proper implementation and encouragement of granny-suites could meet many civic objectives of keeping families together, better utilization of land, and making housing more affordable.
When We Design Road Networks We Should be Mindful of the Local Users
As vulnerable students are found in the vicinity of schools, we should think of the needs of seniors around their housing. The Extendicare Eaux Claires complex was built after the road network was already in place, but I would make the argument that it is now incumbent upon the City to retrofit the immediate area outside of the facility to suit the needs of the greatest stakeholder: the seniors.
I have talked to many seniors in Eaux Claires that are scared to cross the road into Namao Centre because the traffic on 95 Street is too fast. Could we not install a signalized crosswalk? If I am on Council I will fight to get an upgrade installed there. And that will be easy to do. A Councillor should have the situational awareness to look out for all constituents. I will not let our seniors down.
Condominium Ownership Issues
While door-knocking in a senior-oriented ground-level condominium complex near Beaumaris Lake, I heard from several residents that they are outraged that their property taxes are high and yet they have to maintain and pay for their own fire hydrants to a City of Edmonton standard (the hydrants are completely on their condominium land). I sensed a feeling of a “double-standard” from them. While taxpayers on the whole are on the hook for city-wide firefighting infrastructure, these residents noted that they are exclusively responsible for the hydrants located on their condominium property, yet they also pay a share into all of the other hydrants in the city. This is a property tax issue that I want to investigate further.
It has come to my attention that condominium ownership isn’t always as peachy as it first seems. But there is an opportunity for improvement, if provincial legislation changes. As a resource compiled by one of my supporters, here is some information on condo board governance that every condo owner should know about: Click Here.
If I am elected to City Council, I will do what I can to protect the rights of condo owners and to improve their experience with the City. While condo owners are subject to provincial legislation, they are still residents of Edmonton with an elected Councillor hired to look out for their interests.
For any senior reading this, I want to address the odious concept of Elder Abuse. While you have probably heard of this concept, the seriousness of it upsets me enough to dedicate space here to bring attention to it. Everyone should be aware of this issue and what you can do to fight it.
According to the Government of Alberta:
- Elder abuse is any action or inaction that jeopardizes the health or well-being of any older adult.
- Elder abuse can take several forms including financial, emotional, physical, sexual, neglect and medication. This could include abandonment, withholding or not providing food, healthcare, companionship or assistance. Often more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time.
- Elder abuse is often committed by someone known to the victim, such as a family member, friend, or caregiver. Approximately 25% of crimes against older adults are committed by family members, usually a spouse or adult child.
- Although incidents of elder abuse often occur behind closed doors, it is essential to realize that elder abuse is not a private matter. Elder abuse is everyone’s business, and we all need to work together to prevent and address it.
I am an advocate for mental health awareness and if I am elected to Council I will do what I can to provide mental health help and support to prevent Elder Abuse from occurring. Sometimes all a City Councillor can do is listen and direct the individual to the appropriate provincial, federal or not-for-profit agency. I am more than okay with being the first point of contact. I will also provide compassion.
Enforcing Standards with Landlords
There are some problem properties in Ward 3. Some of the landlords do the bare minimum to keep their rental properties in passable conditions. Some of these landlords operate on a complaint-based system. I am informed that these trouble landlords may make a cost calculation to not mow a lawn, for example, until City Bylaw personnel issue a notice. As it may take several months before the initial notice is issued, the landlord saves on commercial landscaping services during this period of time. Finally, upon receiving a Final Notice, they will get a crew in to thrash the grass. The same goes for litter, unsightly premises, and graffiti.
If I am elected to Council I will look into introducing a graduated fine system for problem landowners. This could take many forms including harsher penalties for repeat violations.
Community Standards / Pride
Community standards are important and fit into my overall theme of generating pride on the North Side. When properties are better kept and litter is removed, people are less likely to vandalize. It is the old Broken Windows Theory which states that when people disrespect a place, they are more likely to contribute to its decay. Conversely, in a pristine neighbourhood litter happens less because people feel guilty to be the first to commit the act. Oh, human nature…
Through gradual actions including care for places and people, I want to make the North Side a more desirable place to live. When there is less crime, we need less police. With less police comes relief to our tax base.
If we reprioritize our spending and pump the brakes on the aggressive City-sponsored downtown development, we could invest in Ward 3 more. If we can keep property taxes low, increase the supply of appropriate housing choices, we can make quality housing more affordable in Ward 3.
If you support my campaign, please consider donating
Jon Dziadyk, Ward 3 Candidate
North Side Journal