by Irwin Block
If you’re old enough to remember Monkland High School on West Hill, you’re probably eligible to rent an apartment there.
Since 1987, when it was converted into apartments for autonomous seniors, it has been known as Résidence Monkland—one of several affordable, accessible and attractive not-for-profit places to live in western N.D.G.
The four-storey brick building was renovated with federal grant money into 100 apartments—82 3½ and 18 4½ units—and is designed for retirees and those contemplating retirement. You have to be 45 to rent there, but most are 65 plus, building manager Pierre Lucier explained.
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It is in a lovely setting with a city of Montreal gym on one side, city indoor swimming pool on the other, new CLSC under construction at Monkland and Cavendish, and a library-cultural centre in the works. It is at a dead end, with lots of grass, shrubs, and green space.
Residents must be autonomous, and most vacate when their health deteriorates so that they need more care than occasional visits from the CLSC.
Four apartments are now vacant. Rents range from $655 to $770 for the 3½s and $790 to $875 for 4½s. The electricity bill, which includes heating and hot water, averages $40 a month. Outdoor parking is $40 a month.
“The rents are set at 95 per cent of market, but we offer better service, including a janitor, snow clearance, gardener,” Lucier said with pride.
Rental units with the sign SHDM—Société d’habitation de Montréal—are not to be confused with low-income housing projects. Monkland offers “affordable” housing, while the latter, run by the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal, is subsidized housing.
Still, the Monkland building is “socially mixed,” and a dozen of the units are reserved for people on the low-income list, who pay 25 per cent of their monthly income.
On a recent visit, the exterior, lawns, corridors and one of the vacant apartments were immaculate. The unit was freshly painted, the wood floors had a fresh varathane coating, and each apartment had working smoke and heat detectors in each apartment. The laundry room in the basement was pristine, and a group of women was chatting amiably in the community room. Anglos and francophones share the space amicably, Lucier said.
Around the corner at 3825 Cavendish Blvd., near Sherbrooke, is another option for seniors looking for community. The six-storey building with 92 units is designated for autonomous seniors who are at least 75. To qualify, annual income must be no more than $28,000.
When I arrived for an impromptu visit, a group of residents was sitting in the ground-floor community room singing Kumbaya, part of the regular Wednesday choir with pianist Simon Sloutsker.
Group meals, library time and other activities happen there. Meals can also be served in apartments. The meals are prepared by MultiCaf, the community cafeteria in Côte des Neiges, and cost $7.
Chez Soi—At Home—is part of the Benny Farm Redevelopment and has studio, 3½ and 4½ units. Rent is $601 to $728, including heat, hot water, electricity, cable and 12 meals per person a month. There is a laundry room on each floor.
There were five vacancies, which usually become available when the resident requires daily care and losing autonomy.
Defining autonomy is “a very difficult assessment,” noted project manager Anne-Marie McLaughlin.
A retired nurse acting on a voluntary basis conducts a long interview to determine where applicants have “sufficient cognitive and social ability” to live on their own.
Alzheimer’s is a major issue, McLaughlin said, and many seniors over 75 rely on neighbours and CLSC support. Often it is not enough to live up to the expected level of autonomy to qualify for an apartment.
Chez Soi is a green building, with solar heating, geothermal walls and radiated floors. Pipes heat and cool the units.
Every apartment has a balcony, fire alarm and sprinklers and most residents have spent much of their lives in N.D.G., McLaughlin said.