B’nai Brith heeds the call to shelter growing community

Eileen Katz, Gerry Weinstein and Ted Greenfield are planning a new Château B'nai Brith. Photo: Irwin Block

As the baby boom generation moves into life’s third stage, B’nai Brith is preparing for a spike in demand for affordable housing with plans for a second senior residence.

The need for a second facility for independent seniors surfaced almost as soon as the fraternal organization—largest operator of Jewish senior residences in North America—opened B’nai Brith House in June 2006 at Westminster and Côte St. Luc Rd.

Though the Jewish community—estimated to number almost 90,000 in the metropolitan region—is well established, 20 percent of its members live below the poverty line, says B’nai Brith House president Gerry Weinstein.

“A lot of people fall between the cracks because they are either too proud to ask for help or they don’t know how to navigate the system,” he commented in an interview.

“We never advertised, and almost as soon as we put up the sign for our first residence, we had 750 applications,” Weinstein recalled.

“We realized we just couldn’t accommodate
everybody in 95 units.”

The need comes from the greying of society in general and the Jewish community in particular, with about 35 percent of its members 65 and older—the highest such rate in Canada.

To qualify for residence in social housing, the applicant will contact B’nai Brith officials, fill out the paperwork and then seek approval from Montreal or Quebec government officials. Eligibility for subsidized housing is based on annual revenue, determined by Income Tax Returns.

Rents are subsidized, based on an assessed value of $745 rent for a one-bedroom apartment. The two bedroom apartments are assessed at $865.

There are programs for meals, which are kosher, and a range of organized activities, starting in the morning. There are exercise groups, organized outings, concerts and presentations in the lounge, and a library. The dining room is separated into two sections to offer more privacy and intimacy. “It’s like a family here,” Weinstein says.

The same concept will apply to the new residence, to be built beside the IGA store in the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre on Côte St. Luc.

“This place is filled all the time and we have a waiting list,” Weinstein said, underlining the need for a second facility.

It took the organization three years to negotiate with the City of Côte St. Luc to purchase the land. The total cost of the new building, including the land is $26 million. The architect is Karl Fischer.

Construction of Château B’nai Brith will start in the spring and it is to have 126 units, with the same format as in the existing building. It is set to be open in the spring of 2017.

Units will be bright, featuring high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. The building will have three elevators, with laundry units on each floor.

Sixty per cent of the financing is from the Quebec government and 15 per cent from the City of Montreal. B’nai Brith is contributing $3 million, and the balance financed by a 25-year self-sustaining mortgage.

“It’s a winning formula,” says B’nai Brith House director Eileen Katz of the popularity of the residence and continuing high demand.

“It’s the only residence with this formula catering to our community. We get calls every day, including those who are too young to come here – people who are retired, can’t make ends meet, are alone and want to be part of the family,” Katz said.

For information or to register for the waiting list, call 514-733-5377, local 126.

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