A 55-unit apartment building in Coniston was 12 years in the making, but Les Lisk figures they could bring the process down to three years with future builds.
Although the 12-year road to last year’s grand opening was complex and at times a trying path through bureaucracy, Lisk told Sudbury.com it’s all pretty basic when all is said and done.
“As long as we make ends meet and keep our contingency five per cent, we’re happy,” he said. “That’s how we keep rents low.”
Lisk was invited to speak at the Sudbury chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons’ (CARP) meeting at Red Oak Villa on Feb. 8.
“Why is nobody doing anything about housing?” CARP Sudbury chapter president John Lindsay said, relaying a common refrain in the community. “Well, Les Lisk did something about housing.”
The Coniston project was advertised by Lindsay as a potential solution for Greater Sudbury’s well-established affordable housing shortfall, which Lisk reaffirmed during his presentation and subsequent conversation with Sudbury.com.
Born and raised in Coniston, Lisk said changing demographics spurred him to seek out housing solutions several years ago.
“I saw a lot of old families I knew, once they got to a certain age, they had to move out because there were no apartments, and especially seniors’ apartments,” he said, adding that young people were also leaving the community due to a lack of affordable housing.
By providing affordable housing for seniors, he said affordable single-family homes free up for the next generation of homebuyers.
After wading through numerous bureaucratic hurdles, finding collateral support from Ron Belanger of Belanger Construction and receiving a $17.95-million low-cost insured loan from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the project was finally off the ground.
The first of its kind in Canada, the building is owned by the Coniston Non-Profit Seniors Housing Corporation, under which people purchase $100 memberships to join.
Without a profit margin beyond a contingency fund, they’re able to keep costs as low as possible. They currently charge $1,200 for one-bedroom units, $1,600-$1,690 for two-bedroom units and $2,200 for three-bedroom units.
“That’s everything included; heat, lights, everything,” said Lisk, who serves as president of the Coniston Senior Non-Profit Seniors Housing Corporation.
Numerous environmentally-friendly components fill out the building, including heat pumps, and their goal is to add solar panels at some point, which the building is already wired for.
Only a few months after its September 2023 grand opening, Lisk said they’ve maintained zero-per-cent vacancy and currently have a waitlist 100 names deep.
The group plans on getting a second building, with approximately 80 units, under construction in Coniston within a couple of years, and already have enough financial backers to make it work following the same CMHC funding process as their current build.
Meanwhile, other area community groups have been considering their own non-profit residential developments, including groups in Lively, Noëlville, Capreol and Chelmsford.
“They’d like a community where people get involved in it and don’t have to be stuck in their own little house or apartment,” Lisk said, noting the Coniston building has shared space to help link people together. “There’s a big common space, and a lot of people use it for cards, and their families come in for dinners.”
Lisk said he’s keen on helping other community groups get their own non-profit housing groups together, and for anyone interested in his advice to phone him at 705-562-0702
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.