In recent years, these communities have become increasingly popular, since they meet the housing and support service challenges faced by the country's aging population. With life lease retirement communities being relatively new in the province of Ontario it is only natural that many seniors and their families have questions about this option.
There are a variety of life lease options available across Canada. Manitoba has its own provincial life lease model, regulated under its own Life Leases Act, instituted in 1999. As of 2007, life lease is a model only seen west of the province of Quebec, according to the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC).
The phrase "life lease" means that once an initial lump sum is paid out as a deposit, there is very little change in rates, and the purchaser occupies the home for life, with subsequent monthly payments covering management fees, maintenance and other operating expenses. In essence, this is distinct from term leases, such as one year agreements, etc.
In the past, life lease communities were age-restricted to people at least 55 or older, but this kind of discrimination is not legally feasible. In effect, though, these communities are intended for those 50 and older, and these communities are created where residents enjoy their retirement years surrounded by neighbours with similar tastes, needs, values, lifestyles and interests. In fact, the life-lease concept is more about creating a community than it is about building housing. As residents age, this community becomes an integral ingredient for a happy and healthy lifestyle, bringing a sense of belonging and peace of mind, as residents tend to look out for one another. Residents may also take an active role in managing the property and organizing activities and programs. This provides a sense of purpose that is not possible for someone isolated in a single family home or condominium.
Life-lease projects have extensive amenity areas to encourage the community aspect, like workshops, hobby and craft rooms, libraries, fitness centres and raised hobby gardens. Building designs and programming usually allow for future support services to help aging residents remain independent for as long as possible. Quality of life is enhanced through on-site wellness centres, dining rooms, housekeeping and cleaning services, personal care and transportation, among a number of services offered. With a minimal level of such services, 65 per cent of residents can enjoy their later years without moving to a retirement home or nursing facility.
Homes listed on this page may not all be strictly life lease retirement homes; some may be leased while others may be for profit. Consult each retirement residence for details, and fully research life lease before making any commitments.
Life lease rates are often set by a non-profit who (by definition) has no motivation to raise rents for profit. However, monthly operating costs may go up due to increases in utility rates or civic property taxes. A non-profit life lease, though, is generally considered one of the most stable rental structures on the market.
A worst case scenario projected for a life lease in the province of Manitoba is an inflationary increase of 5% per year. Life lease focuses on operating costs only, so the monthly rate you pay is much lower than you would for renting, and an annual percentage increase still comes out much lower. A projected typical rate seen in Manitoba is $550 per month, where operating costs might (in a worst case scenario) rise to just over $635 per month over ten years. This is easily coverable through most seniors' OAS and CPP benefits. The same rental rate can increase by a total of 8% (or even more) per year (again, in a worst case scenario) and end up at over $700 per month.
Talk to friends who live in a life-lease arrangement and learn from their experiences. As noted by the CMHC, "life lease projects raise a variety of consumer protection issues," and there are also a variety of legal issues faced by sponsors, lenders and others.