A visualization of the proposed Avens Pavilion as seen in Avens' latest annual report.
A Yellowknife seniors’ facility is looking to expand its campus as pressure to accommodate the North’s growing number of Elders grows.
The Avens Pavilion project would create 92 one-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom units, including affordable housing options.
At the moment, Avens has long-term care beds for 55 seniors and an additional 32 housing units.
Residents could start moving into the new homes as early as the fall of 2022, the annual general meeting of the organization heard last week, if all goes to plan.
“We’re positive that this is a great project for the North, a great project for Yellowknife, and of course our seniors,” said Daryl Dolynny, Avens’ chief executive.
Dolynny said a recent survey identified a lack of housing, in particular affordable housing, as a key gap in long-term care for northern seniors.
According to a 2019 NWT government report on seniors’ housing, approximately 40 percent of seniors’ dwellings are neither adequate or suitable, nor affordable.
“There’s a real need for supportive living options for Elders who want to stay independent, but they’re getting to a point where they might need help with more tasks like laundry or shopping,” said Suzette Montreuil, executive director of the NWT Seniors’ Society.
Montreuil praised the Avens Pavilion initiative but said she expects even those units to fill up quickly.
Seniors, said Montreuil, are the fastest-growing sector in the NWT’s population and the territory must do more to adjust to their needs.
“As a society, we need to support and recognize the wealth, wisdom, and knowledge that Elders have offered us,” she said.
“We need to provide them the best we can – and supportive living is part of that.”
Dolynny is awaiting confirmation from the organization’s partners that the funding exists to proceed with the Avens Pavilion. He hopes to hear soon.
According to Avens’ annual report, its members in August granted permission to take out a loan of up to $5.5 million in order to fund the project if it moves forward.
At last week’s annual general meeting, several attendees raised the issue of a potential traffic increase associated with the proposed new facility – and related safety issues.
Kelly Hayden, the chair of Avens’ development committee, said more research will be carried out once funding is approved.
There will also be a period of community consultation, said Hayden, during which members can discuss concerns they have.