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'A dream': New affordable rentals opening for senior artists in New Westminster

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It's a creative housing idea for local artists.

New affordable rental units are opening for seniors who devoted their lives to the performing arts. Senior artists like former DJ Ellie O’Day.

“Most people in the arts realize by the time they hit their 50s that they're going to have an issue with housing in this city,” she explained.

The nine-story building in New Westminster boasts 66 units for low-to-moderate-income seniors ages 55 and over.

Rents range from $800 a month for a bachelor to $1,350 for a one bedroom, and the building sports new kitchens, laundry machines, and a rooftop garden. The units are a leg up from the shared accommodations many artists find themselves living in later in life.

“(We see) artists living 16 to a house,” said Jennifer Whiteside, MLA for New Westminster.

“Getting together and renting a house, but then if they’re renting and the owner decides to sell, that's what we’re seeing a lot of.”

Lynn Ross – the executive director of the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL), the local non-profit that led the project – said many retired artists struggle to find affordable housing.

“There really aren’t a lot of options for people, certainly seniors,” she said. “When you're a performing artist you don't earn … money for your future, you don't necessarily have a job with a pension."

“Having affordable homes for performing artists is really … a dream for a lot of them to be in their community and age in place.”

The non-profit said this housing will allow artists to live together and continue creating art, something O’Day said makes her very happy.

“This allows us to work together,” she said. “Because the arts collaborate.”

Money for the project came from the province, B.C. housing, and the private sector.

Prospective tenants will have to apply through PAL.   

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