'Very upset': Senior housing residents plead for Sask. Housing Corporation to rebuild after winter fire

Former residents of a Carievale seniors housing complex want the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) to reconsider its decision to demolish the home.

Ten out of 14 suites at Cari-Villa, a social housing building for low-income seniors, suffered damage in a fire in January.

Ever since, the residents have been waiting for the SHC to decide if it will rebuild.

On Wednesday, the residents got an answer.

“We are not going to be rebuilding as the cost to rebuild Cari-Villa as it was is significant, and we have a high number of vacancies in the area,” said Roger Parenteau, executive director of housing operations with the SHC.

The SHC is giving the village the option to attain the property and take it over.

“If this isn’t feasible for the community, our plan will be to continue to keep the four remaining Cari-Villa units in our portfolio, and demolish the portion that was destroyed in the fire and remediate the site,” Parenteau said.

The announcement was made Wednesday evening at a meeting with the SHC, members of the village council and the Carievale Housing Authority (CHA).

Wendy Paul, the manager for the CHA, said they were given less than 24 hours notice of the meeting, and she is not happy with the outcome.

“I was very upset, very angry. I didn’t think it was fair,” Paul said.

“(The residents) have been through a lot the last two years with COVID and with the fire. This was just one more big kick for them to take.”

The fire displaced nine residents. Support was provided to help everyone connect with other social housing options in the area, according to the SHC statement.

Seven of the impacted tenants chose to continue accessing social housing and were relocated to other vacant housing units in Carievale and surrounding communities, Parenteau said, and the other two tenants chose to reside with family.

At least three of the residents had to move out of the community to find a new home, according to the CHA.

Patricia Henderson, who lived in Cari-Villa for almost a year, had to move into a small house with higher rent in Carievale. She said she is fortunate, but it does not feel like home.

“It is comfortable, but I want to be back with my family,” she said.

“I’m 79 years old. I’ve been paying taxes all those years. And now when I need my government, they say, ‘Nope, sorry we can’t do it because the bottom line won’t allow it,’” Henderson said.

Cathy Finkle, 77, temporarily moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. She was hopeful that her next move would be back into Cari-Villa, the place she had called home for five years.

“I don’t want to live anywhere else,” Finkle said. “It was everything. I loved every minute I was there. I felt at home. I felt secure.”

The residents and housing authority want the SHC to reconsider its decision.

The boiler room and one suite suffered the majority of the damage, Paul said, and most of the building is completely intact.

Linda Ewert Minshull, the village administrator, said council is discussing its options, but needs more information from the SHC before it can make a decision.

“We’re going to try with our every effort, but it’s not much of an option,” Ewert Minshull said. “You can’t throw something like that at a little village with no notice. There are no reserves.”

She said the housing corporation has tried to get the village to take over the villa in the past.

The SHC did not provide a purchase price for the building.

“If it’s our only option, we’ve got to try something,” Ewert Minshull said.

Carievale is located in the southeast corner of the province with a population of approximately 250 people.