BONNYVILLE-COLD LAKE – Beginning in the new year, residents living in the Bonnylodge and the Cold Lake Lodge will see a $100 jump in their rent per month.
The decision to increase rent was made during a Lakeland Lodge and Housing board meeting held on Dec. 21.
Additionally, the Lakeland Lodge and Housing Foundation requisition has also been increased to $900,000, which will be divided between the MD of Bonnyville, Town of Bonnyville, the Summer Village of Bonnyville Beach and the Summer Village of Pelican Narrows.
The main reason for the increase in rent and requisitions was spurred by ongoing vacancies, Chris Vining, the chair of the foundation’s board, told Lakeland This Week.
In the Cold Lake Lodge there are about 12 ongoing vacancies, while there are roughly 27 vacancies in the Bonnylodge.
“The unfortunate side is when those units sit empty, we lose out on that revenue, but it doesn't really affect our expense line,” said Vining, who is also a City of Cold Lake councillor.
“Our staffing levels stay the same, you still need to run your kitchen, you still need to run your housekeeping at these facilities. So, with added residents it doesn't necessarily mean added expenses, but [vacancies] do mean a decrease in revenue.”
Following the latest rent bump, residents could be paying anywhere from $1,300 to $1,700 per month, Tanya Jeans, the foundation’s executive assistant told Lakeland This Week.
The change in rent is the first increase the board has approved in about three to four years.
“There are two different ways that we can try to make up a revenue shortfall when it comes to the lodges, one is to increase rent, which we try to avoid as much as we can. The other part is we can also increase what's called the requisition, so that amount that gets added on to people's property taxes in order to make up that difference,” explained Vining.
Over the years, the board has been able to freeze rent increases and even lower municipal requisitions, but the current financial situation made it impossible to maintain the status quo for 2023.
"This year, because of where we're at in the continuing shortfall, we made the choice to raise rents, in part because we were due for a rental increase anyway,” he said.
Reasons behind the vacancies
Several factors have played a role in the vacancies at the foundation’s facilities, according to Vining.
Since the completion of recent expansions and renovations at both the Cold Lake Lodge and Bonnylodge, which nearly doubled available rental space, neither facility has been able to reach its new capacity levels.
“We are certainly hosting more seniors and we have more residing there, but we just haven't filled up,” he acknowledged, adding, "the COVID pandemic certainly didn't help.”
Vining also noted that public health protocols at the facilities during COVID outbreaks may be playing a factor in people's decision not to move into a communal living facility.
Another barrier preventing seniors from moving into a lodge could be a cool housing market.
“A lot of our seniors when they decide it's time to move into the lodge, they then have that disposition of their own personal property to deal with, whether it's as a home or a farm... With a slowdown in the housing market, it's not as certain that they can make those moves,” he noted.
While there has been a recent uptick in residents moving into the Bonnyville and Cold Lake lodges, the number has not hit the targets the foundation was hoping for, expressed Vining.
“We are running some very strong programming with great people, good residents, and now that the new lodges are done with construction the phases, there's almost no comparison to what they were before to what they are now in terms of the rooms’ quality and the spaces that they have access to," he said.
“We know the folks are out there and we think that in time they will come.”
Lakeland Lodge and Housing Foundation provides housing for seniors and low-income seniors aged 65 and older through its Lodge Program and the Seniors Self Contained Program.