WHEREAS there are approximately 149 senior citizens’ lodges operated throughout Alberta, which are regulated under the Alberta Housing Act; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta, in 1994, changed lodge program funding from a 50/50 cost-shared deficit between the Government of Alberta and municipalities to a capped lodge assistance grant, with the municipalities responsible for the remaining deficit; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta recently instructed local management bodies to budget on the assumption of no increases in provincial funding for the next five years; and
WHEREAS the Lodge Assistance Program grant does not contain any provisions to address inflation, aging infrastructure, marketability and increasing operational costs; and
WHEREAS the costs to maintain the lodge facilities in their existing condition and ensure adequate access to lodging through the creation of additional lodging spaces to meet the needs of an aging population is placing an increasing financial burden on the lodge’s management bodies; and
WHEREAS the only recourse after rent to cover these increasing costs is to download an increasing burden of funding beyond the provincial cap on municipalities;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to return to review and finalize its review of the seniors lodge program, including increasing funding to the lodge program and removing or increasing its funding cap.
Begun in the 1950s, the provincial lodge program has provided supportive living services to thousands of seniors by allowing them to stay in their local community and age in place until they require a higher level of care.
The purpose of the program was to free up spaces in auxiliary hospitals that were housing seniors who did not require such a high level of care. To provide space and support for the lodges, municipalities donated land for the lodge and agreed to be requisitioned for any operating deficits incurred by their management bodies.
The province provides a lodge assistance grant based on qualifying seniors and occupancy rates. The province has capped its financial responsibility with the lodge assistance grant at $12.45 per qualifying resident per day.
While the lodge assistance grant has kept pace with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since 1994, the province has continued to establish grant restrictions such as occupancy rates and seniors income (the lodge program has no income cap for admission, but management bodies are penalized as the lodge assistant grant only provides grant funding for seniors with income below $28,160).
In addition, the provincial budget does not contain provisions for an increase in the lodge assistance grant program, which means the bulk of increased operating costs become the responsibility of municipalities to requisition.
Rental rates for many lodge operators over the same time period (1994 to 2012) have moved from flat rate rent to rents based on seniors’ income, leaving a lot of seniors with $315 after paying rent (as per legislation). However, this still leaves a significant operating cost which the municipalities end up funding.
While operating funding is an issue, the shortfall in provincial funding is an issue in the lodge’s capital operations. In 2013, it was estimated that over $400 million in capital funding was required to revitalize the lodges. The province allocated $30.9 million for capital improvements for all lodges based on $3,000 per unit and $40 million in 2012/13 and 2013/14 for Rural Seniors Housing Renewal program. While this investment is welcome, it is not sufficient to keep up with the need to both maintain existing units, and ensure the development of sufficient new units to meet increasing needs.
Recently, the Government of Alberta instructed the lodges’ management bodies to create their budgets assuming no increase in funding for the next five years. If provincial funding is not increased, the local lodge’s management body is predicting increasing deficits going from 5% in 2016 to 12.3% in 2021, which will be downloaded onto municipalities.
While these amounts are helpful, more is required to address not only the identified capital shortfall, but also allow for the creation of additional units to meet Alberta’s aging population.
8-08F: Seniors’ Lodge Assistance Program Grant Increases
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta increase the Lodge Assistance Program Grant annually by a minimum as set out in Canadian Consumer Price Index.
7-08F: Funding for Seniors Facilities
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Province of Alberta to increase the funding allocated to Seniors Foundations to attempt to keep pace with the rising costs of inflation.
31-03F: Funding of Seniors Lodges/Foundations
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) urge the Government of Alberta to amend Section 7(2) of the Alberta Housing Act to change the basis of determination for municipal requisitions to a per-capita system based upon total population of all the municipalities requisitioned;
AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Government of Alberta to amend the Alberta Housing Act to allow for mediation/arbitration in the instance where municipalities are unable to agree on the basis on which the total requisition is to be shared.
DEVELOPMENT: In the budget presented in the spring of 2015, the province funded the development of long-term care and affordable supportive living spaces through the Affordable Supportive Living Initiative by increasing funding by 161 per cent to $91.5 million in 2015-16. This budget did not pass but the AAMDC will be looking to the October 23, 2015 budget for greater direction from the current government.
Municipal Affairs: Alberta Municipal Affairs has no comment on this resolution, as it involves matters under the jurisdiction of Seniors and Housing.
Seniors and Housing: Housing is a basic necessity, and the Government of Alberta (GOA) remains committed to providing seniors with a safe, comfortable and affordable place to live. The Seniors Lodge Program is successful in supporting this commitment through the long-standing partnership between the GOA and local municipalities. This partnership was evidenced in the work undertaken to review the Seniors Lodge Program by a multi-sector Advisory Committee.
The report containing the recommendations of this committee has been provided to Alberta Seniors and Housing. The ministry has also committed to a review of the regulations under the Alberta Housing Act to align with the expiry of these regulations in March 2017.
We understand that financial resources are being stretched and difficult decisions are being made locally. The GOA remains committed to working with its municipal partners and housing providers to ensure the continued delivery of the Seniors Lodge Program.
This resolution has two purposes: to request the Government of Alberta to review and finalize the seniors lodge program review, and to increase funding to the seniors lodge program. As the program review has been provided to Alberta Seniors and Housing for finalization, the first request in the resolution has been met. However, the government’s response gave no indication of any imminent plan to increase funding to the seniors lodge program, though funding levels for seniors housing in general saw an increase in the 2016-17 budget from $177 million to $324 million. This increase came largely through additional assistance to the Alberta Social Housing Corporation which provides affordable housing for both seniors and non-seniors. Budget 2017-18 budget saw a decrease of funding to the Alberta Social Housing Corporation to $262 million for programs delivered by the Alberta Social Housing Corporation. Of this $262 million, however, $100 million is dedicated to seniors housing.
The AAMDC will monitor this resolution to fully determine whether the funding increases are meeting the intent of the resolution. This resolution is assigned a status of Accepted in Part.