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Legion Manor Victoria celebrates 50 years of providing affordable living for seniors

In an era of sky-high rents and an ever-rising cost of living, the Central Saanich seniors home provides a haven for 55+ veterans and others

By Emily Vance
October 28, 2022
Good news
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Legion Manor Victoria celebrates 50 years of providing affordable living for seniors

In an era of sky-high rents and an ever-rising cost of living, the Central Saanich seniors home provides a haven for 55+ veterans and others

By Emily Vance
Oct 28, 2022
Good news
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Legion Manor Victoria celebrates 50 years of providing affordable living for seniors

In an era of sky-high rents and an ever-rising cost of living, the Central Saanich seniors home provides a haven for 55+ veterans and others

By Emily Vance
October 28, 2022
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Legion Manor Victoria celebrates 50 years of providing affordable living for seniors

Before moving into Legion Manor, George Schmidt was having a difficult time finding a place to live that suited his needs. The now 89-year old had moved from Port Alberni to Sidney to be near his family after losing his wife 10 years ago. He was living with his son and two grandchildren in a two bedroom cottage and was looking for a rental of his own, but found himself priced out of the rental market.

Schmidt said he jumped on the opportunity when the call came from Rob McIntosh, Executive Director of the Legion Manor, offering him a place to stay.

That was five years ago. Since then, McIntosh said Schmidt has flourished in the social environment of Legion Manor, a seniors’ residence focused on affordable living in Central Saanich.

“It is nice. I mean, you have your own place, you can do practically whatever you want, and it's good,” Schmidt said. “I'm really happy and thankful.”

He’s an active participant in the musical activities at Legion Manor, singing in the choir and picking up the ukulele, a popular pastime at the residence. Schmidt has also become something of a local celebrity, appearing in the commercial for Legion Manor that airs on Chek TV; he gets recognized at the bus stop because of it.

George Schmidt has lived at Legion Manor for the past five years. Emily Vance / Capital Daily

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Legion Manor is run by the South Vancouver Island Housing Society, a non-profit operated by members from the seven branches of the Royal Canadian Legion in Greater Victoria. The SVIHS was created in 1972, with the vision to “create and operate clean, safe, and affordable housing for (55+) seniors.” Shortly after forming, the group purchased the land where the Legion Manor now sits, at the intersection of East Saanich Road and Prosser Road.

Funds from the Royal Canadian Legion make a big difference to the daily operation of Legion Manor. This year, the RCL donated $40,000 from their poppy fund towards the purchase of a bus and a van for the facility.

At a time when many seniors are struggling to make ends meet, the affordable housing that Legion Manor provides is a crucial service. According to a recent report by the Office of the Seniors Advocate in BC, many seniors are struggling with the high costs of rent and food. Market rent in the province has gone up 50% over the past 10 years, while pensions have increased only 25%. The median income for a senior citizen in BC is $30,750 a year, and according to the report, 84% of low-income seniors say they sometimes run out of money to buy food.

The Manor operates 78 affordable living units in single-storey townhouses that line the perimeter of the property. The one bedroom units are independent living suites, although some residents hire caregivers to assist with daily tasks. They rent for $875 per month, far below market rates, and Legion Manor also offers residents assistance in applying for rental grants through BC Housing. 

“We keep the rents as reasonable as possible so people can afford to move in,” McIntosh said.

From left: Rod Hughes, President of the South Vancouver Island Housing Society, Karen Morgan, board member of the SVIHS, and Rob McIntosh, Executive Director of Legion Manor Victoria. Emily Vance / Capital Daily

SVIHS has seen interest in the affordable living units skyrocket, and McIntosh said the wait to get in can be between six and seven years. Veterans have priority, and are automatically moved to the top of the list when they apply. Though the wait is long, McIntosh said demand remains high.

The facility also offers 68 units of assisted living in a central, condo-style building. Each unit rents for $2,925 per month, which includes lunch, dinner, and aids to daily living. The wait list is shorter, but it can still take one to two years for a room to open up.

On top of the affordability, McIntosh said the community atmosphere is an invaluable aspect of life at Legion Manor.

“[Residents] can also partake in all of the activities that go on in the building. It gives them that social aspect that's desperately needed for somebody that doesn't have any family members left,” McIntosh said.

On any given day, residents have between three and six different activities to choose from, including fitness classes, yoga, putting golf, bingo, bocce ball, knitting group, and movie night, to name a few. There’s a church service on Sundays, and movie nights take place every Tuesday. Birthdays of residents are listed on the activities calendar.

If demand for the services is any indication, it’s a model that seems to work well, and one that fills an important role in Greater Victoria’s housing market. The SVIHS has been looking to add on another facility for years, but president Rod Hughes said the process hasn’t been easy. 

Hughes has served in the volunteer role for 12 years. He said in the past four years, the society has struggled to find an affordable parcel of land that is, or can be, zoned to meet their development requirements. Hughes recently published a call to action for local municipalities and societies to stand behind the non-profit in their attempts to purchase and develop a suitable property. Depending on the site, they hope to be able to provide affordable housing, assisted living, and dementia care for seniors, as well as workforce housing.

“The older generation deserves our support. I think it's crazy that as we go forward, with a great country, a great province, a great municipality, and with all the resources we have, that we can't look after people,” Hughes said.

“We need to sort that out. And we need to do it as a community. We need to go forward, and we need to be compassionate.”

A one-bedroom townhouse at Legion Manor Victoria rents for $875/month. Emily Vance / Capital Daily

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