After almost a decade of work by dedicated local volunteers, and more than one false start, work recently started on a 10-unit seniors’ living in facility in the Village of Clinton that had been promised in 2017.
Then, on Sept. 20 — the day before Premier John Horgan called a snap election to be held on Oct. 24 — the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced that Clinton will be getting an additional 10 units of seniors housing. The recently announced project is one of seven around the province that will be funded by the Community Housing Fund.
“We are very happy to finally be breaking ground on an assisted/supportive housing facility for a 20-unit project that has been in the works for many years,” says Judy Hampton, chair of the Clinton and District Assisted Living Society.
She notes that shovels were already in the ground to begin work on the first 10 units when the announcement about another 10 was made on Sept. 20. Since equipment is already at the site, the hope is that work on all 20 units can be carried out at the same time.
“Kudos to the Clinton and District Assisted Living Society for hanging in there for so long,” says Clinton Mayor Susan Swan. “It’s because of their dedication and perserverance that this is finally happening.”
The initiative to get affordable seniors’ housing built in Clinton began in 2011. In 2013 the Clinton and District Assisted Living Society was formed, and in 2015 they submitted a 160-page report regarding the “Clinton Supportive Seniors Project” to BC Housing, containing full details of the proposed facility. The Society expressed a wish to have the facility located on the site of Clinton Elementary School at 300 Smith Avenue. The school closed in June 2010.
“We hope that between the three government bodies involved—the Ministry of Education, Crown Lands, and BC Housing—we can reach an agreement,” said Hampton at the time.
In May 2016, Liberal Housing Minister Rich Coleman visited Clinton and had an opportunity to visit the proposed site. Coleman returned to Clinton in March 2017, when he announced that the provincial Liberal government was commiting $2.9 million to construction of a 10-unit living facility, which would serve seniors in Clinton and surrounding areas, including Loon Lake, 70 Mile, Green Lake, Canoe Creek, Dog Creek, Cache Creek, and Ashcroft.
The Clinton Elementary School building had been a stumbling block, as seven years after the school closed it was still standing. The presence of asbestos in the building meant that it could not be renovated into housing units, and had to be razed, but School District No. 74 did not receive funds to demolish the structure until Feb. 2017. That work was carried out in June 2017.
However, the provincial election in May 2017 saw the Liberals relegated to Opposition status, with the NDP assuming the reins of government, and the Clinton seniors’ housing facility — along with other projects previously announced by the Liberals — was put on hold. Speaking to the Journal in Aug. 2018, Fraser-Nicola Liberal MLA Jackie Tegart expressed her frustration at the lack of progress.
“We’re still waiting on a land transfer that is within government. We have such a committed group in Clinton. During budget estimates I made sure that it was on the radar for Minister Selina Robinson, who’s in charge of housing, and we continue to advocate on behalf of the community.
“It’s just unbelievably frustrating that the transfer of property within government could be so convoluted. I’ve indicated to the minister that these are determined people. We’re rural, we are committed to keeping our seniors at home, and don’t think that we’re going away.”
In Dec. 2019, Clinton council gave final reading to a bylaw amendment requesting that the zoning of the former school site be changed from P1 (Public and Institutional) to R2 (Large Lot Residential). In Feb. 2020, council gave approval for staff to proceed with a Development Permit for construction of the seniors’ facility at the former school site.
The Society’s original aim was to have an assisted living facility with health care services on site, but when that cost was added on to the proposal it made it much more expensive. The 2015 proposal was for a supportive care facility that would see home care workers called in when needed to administer prescriptions and see to residents’ health. It also stated that each unit would have a small kitchen area with a fridge and microwave, but that the majority of meals would be prepared in a large commercial kitchen on site and served in a communal dining-room. Meals and cleaning would be provided for all residents.
“These sorts of projects are desperately needed in small communities,” said Hampton at the time, adding that the facility would be similar to Thompson View Manor in Ashcroft. “Otherwise people have to go to larger centres that they don’t want to be in.”
“I’ve already had a phone call from someone in Cache Creek asking ‘How do I get on the list?’” says Swan. “This will be huge for our senior population. They will be able to age in place in their own community, and that will benefit them and their families.
“Our preliminary housing needs assessment showed that 35 per cent of Clinton’s population in 2016 was over the age of 65, so that reinforces the need for this type of housing.”
The Community Housing Fund supports mixed-income buildings where 50 per cent of the units are for households with incomes up to $64,000, 30 per cent of the units are for households with incomes up to approximately $74,000, and 20 per cent of the units are for households with very low incomes (including those on income or disability assistance). Ten of the 20 units will be allocated under this structure.
“Without the continuing support of our mayor and council, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, MLAs, our MP, and our local organizations, churches, and First Nations, this project would not have come to be,” says Hampton of the recent announcement. “Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this endeavour a reality.”