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Variations on Life Lease Continue to Emerge

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 03 June 2003 00:00

Many Canadians have come across at least one life lease high- or low-rise apartment-style complex, but The Villages of Brantwell introduces another spin on this increasingly-acceptable alternative to renting or full ownership. This Burlington, Ontario adult lifestyle community will include life lease townhomes and detached houses as well as the usual apartment variation. The first phase, which includes a 5,000 sq. ft. clubhouse, is in development and is expected to offer individual units at under $200,000 and homes at under $300,000. Residents will pay an annual maintenance fee prorated for their unit.

Life lease residents purchase the right to occupy a specific unit and, in Ontario, are neither tenants nor property owners. The contract that governs the relationship between the resident and the actual owner of the complex is not automatically a life-long agreement since most life lease facilities require residents to move if they can no longer live independently. Each complex sets its own rules and defines its own limitations on occupancy, including age restrictions (often the minimum age is 55), so specific details matter when investigating a life lease.

Brantwell is promoted as an Age-in-Place project with universal design or "easy living features" incorporated into every unit. The one-floor layouts include wider doorways, higher electrical outlets, lever handles, lower light switches, and overall universal-design kitchens and bathrooms. Additional adaptations may be made at minimal cost since flexibility and accessibility are built-in from the start.

Developed and owned by Bucci/Chiaravalle Group, The Villages of Brantwell owe much to the volunteers that support the community. For years, one group connected with nearby Joseph Brant Hospital has lobbied to create a rehabilitation and reactivation centre, known as Wellness House. That facility will be built as part of Brantwell's phase one, but it will remain under the direct control of the Hospital. Once the Brantwell residences are sold, Brantwell Community Corporation, a volunteer not-for-profit organization, will take over ownership and management of the complex.

Our federal housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, continues to track consumer reaction to life lease development across Canada under two ongoing research projects:

  • Life Lease Housing: Consumer Dream or Consumer Nightmare? The objective of this research is to answer the question: What form of regulation would protect consumers while not over-regulating the industry?

  • Life Lease Ownership by the Elderly of Suites with Continuing Care Services The objective of this research is to gather and document the views and preferences of prospective elderly residents, before and after occupancy, for two distinct types of accommodation models—one a combination of life lease and support services in a home-like environment and the other a traditional long term care facility.

Variations on life lease continue as developers seek new ways to fill the diverse needs of a competitive housing marketplace. As more housing choices become available, the consumer will be the winner.

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