Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens opens 48 new affordable apartments for seniors

Port Alberni, BC

Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens has opened its new apartment building adjacent to the existing facilities, offering 48 affordable, independent living spaces for seniors.

Meaning side of a hill in Nuu-chah-nulth, the Huupsitas Apartments opened in November 2022 at 6161 Russell Place in Port Alberni. It is the latest expansion of the Tsawaayuus senior’s complex that started in 1992 with the construction of a facility that offered 30 long-term care beds primarily for Indigenous elders.

In 2009 a new wing was built, offering 10 more assisted living units. A decade later there was a major expansion with the addition of 13 long-term care beds and 20 independent living units.

Completed in November 2022, Huupsitas Apartments boasts another 48 independent living units. There are 35 one-bedroom units along with 10 one-bedroom suites that are fully accessible for those with mobility issues. Also, there are three two-bedroom units.

Built by the Westcoast Native Health Care Society, Huupsitas Apartments is a newly constructed five-story building, some with views overlooking the Somass River. They are being offered as affordable rental homes for low to moderate-income Indigenous elders, seniors and elder people with disabilities who can live independently.

According to building manager Art Van Volsen the units are subsidized by BC Housing and certain criteria must be met to qualify for a rental unit. The units are strictly for those aged 55 and older.

There are nine units reserved for seniors on social assistance. Those units rent for about $375 a month. Van Volsen says the rental details are sorted out between the tenant and BC Ministry of Social Development. There are only three of these units left.

For low-income seniors there is a middle-rental tier where the tenant pays 30 per cent of their income.

“Some are paying rent as low as $375 to about $500 a month,” said Van Volsen.

He added that there are nine or 10 units in this category and only one are two are vacant.

The remaining units rent for $750 for a one bedroom to $850 for a two bedroom. All the two-bedroom units are filled.

There is a strict no-pet policy along with a substance use policy.

On the upside, hot water is included in the rent and there is a new scooter shelter for tenants.

The close proximity of the independent units to the long-term care facility allows residents from the different buildings to mingle with one another, many of whom are related.

“Sometimes tenants help one another with their needs,” said Van Volsen adding that in one case, one tenant helps another with cooking.

In another case, a man living in Huupsitas Apartments can go over to visit his wife in the long-term care facility, taking her out for visits.

“They are building their own community,” said Van Volsen.

He stated that there are still eight one-bedroom units available, but tenant interviews are coming up in the coming weeks. While the apartments were built with Indigenous people in mind, Van Volsen says there are no guidelines in place. In the other 20-unit independent living complex, 18 of the units are occupied by Indigenous people.

For more information about Huupsitas Apartments call 250-724-5655. Application forms and more information about the apartments can be found on their website at https://rainbowgardens.ca/rent/ or email info@rainbowgardens.ca

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