Details were light but aspirations were sizable at West Vancouver council on Monday night as Baptist Housing representatives discussed plans for their newly acquired 725 Inglewood Ave. care centre.
“There is a need to rebuild because these buildings are very old,” Baptist Housing CEO Howard Johnson told council.
The plan is to work out an arrangement with the province and B.C. Housing to build a new and improved version of the 230-bed, 57-year-old Inglewood Care Centre on three newly acquired single-family lots to the west.
“All residents would have the opportunity to move right next door,” Johnson said.
All of the units would be single occupancy, Johnson said, adding that exceptions could be made for married couples.
B.C. Housing put up $114 million in financing to go along with $14.5 million from Baptist Housing to secure the land.
Public consultations on rezoning for the new Inglewood are expected to begin imminently.
After the new Inglewood care centre is finished, Baptist Housing would turn its attention to the original lot, which would be used exclusively for seniors care housing, although it could be a mix of public and privately funded beds, depending on funding from Vancouver Coastal Health and council’s appetite for more housing on the site.
Addressing the long-term care staffing crisis in B.C., Baptist Housing chief operating officer Howard Johnson acknowledged that recruitment and retention of employees in West Vancouver may be a problem.
While emphasizing the earliness of the “development thought process,” Johnson suggested that employee housing is a consideration.
“We see this as a potential opportunity to do something that would be unique,” Johnson said.
Employee housing “would attract people for sure,” Baptist Housing chief operating officer Marc Kinna agreed.
Kinna noted Inglewood employees sometimes need to adjust their work shifts based on transit schedules, which has “knock-on effects to care,” he said.
The facility had been privately owned by Unicare, which subcontracted staffing and operations. The facility had a history of contract flipping, requiring existing staff to be laid off and rehired at lower rates.
The change of ownership is enthusiastically backed by the Hospital Employees’ Union.
“There’s no question this is a good news story,” Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager for the HEU, said in a follow-up interview with the News.
Baptist Housing is somewhat reliant on unpaid contributions from the community, complementing approximately 1,800 employees throughout B.C. with 600 volunteers.
“Our volunteer program is an essential part of our ministry,” Kinna said.
Despite the organization’s name, Kinna emphasized that there are no barriers in terms of who can live in their facilities.
“Baptist Housing welcomes people from all backgrounds, all faith traditions, all ethnicities,” he said.
Council was largely enthusiastic about the prospect of Baptist Housing taking over the site, with Mayor Mary-Ann Booth noting her mother-in-law is “very happy” in a Baptist Housing facility.
“I think everyone on council thinks this is a great opportunity to revitalize that aging facility,” Coun. Peter Lambur agreed.
While Coun. Craig Cameron noted that every demographic projection points to the need for more care facilities for seniors, he urged Baptist Housing to talk to their new neighbours.
“The ambitions for this site are fairly, well, ambitious,” he said, adding there may be “some anxiety” regarding density.
“There’s probably a sweet spot in which you can get the density you need to make it work . . . and the neighbourhood can still retain much of its character.”
The partnership was also trumpeted by minister of municipal affairs and housing Selina Robinson.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing how we can bring more affordable housing options onto this site, so that more seniors in West Vancouver can have a home close to friends and family,” she stated in a press release from the province.
– with files from Brent Richter