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Controversy surrounded Terraces on 7th, a Vancouver apartment building where nearly two dozen elderly residents faced having to move when the building’s owner decided to change some subsidized assisted-living units into private-pay units.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Increasing land values and proposed regulatory changes could put a squeeze on publicly funded assisted-living spaces in coming years, says a new report from the BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA).

"The task force does foresee an increase in assisted-living operators exiting from publicly funded services in the future unless funding meets both market values … and level of care provisions," the report says.

The report was written by a task force launched following a controversy related to Terraces on 7th, a Vancouver apartment building where nearly two dozen elderly residents faced having to move when the building's owner decided to change some subsidized assisted-living units into private-pay units.

Last March, the building's owner, Retirement Concepts, decided to terminate its contract with Vancouver Coastal Health, the regional health authority, and gave notice to affected residents, some of whom were in their 90s. Following media reports, the owner backtracked, saying tenants in subsidized assisted-living units would be allowed to stay until the contract's original expiry date in March, 2019.

Residents and family members were subsequently told any changes to assisted-living units would be made through attrition, meaning residents could remain indefinitely.

In its report, the BCCPA task force said the building's owner was within its rights to terminate its agreement, but that the process and communication to residents and families was lacking. It recommended a minimum 12-month notice for terminating agreements between Vancouver Coastal Health and operators.

The Terraces on 7th controversy raised concerns over whether other operators around the province planned to wind up any subsidized assisted-living contracts.

Assisted living is a type of accommodation for seniors or people with disabilities who are relatively independent but need some support, such as regular housekeeping. People in government-subsidized assisted-living units pay a monthly fee of up to 70 per cent of their after-tax income.

The BCCPA, which represents non-government care providers, struck a task force to determine whether there was a trend of operators shifting from subsidized to private assisted-living units. The task force also looked at the potential impact of Bill 16, legislation proposed by the BC Liberals that would change the Community Care and Assisted Living Amendment Act.

The bill is designed to allow people to stay in assisted-living facilities before having to move to residential care and would remove a cap on services such as helping with medication. Currently, assisted-living facilities are only allowed to provide two of six prescribed services. The new bill would remove that cap.

The legislation was crafted in response to concerns that seniors were being required to move from assisted living into residential care before it was necessary.

An online survey found BCCPA members believe the proposed legislation would result in increased demand for assisted-living services.

When asked about their future intent to provide subsidized assisted living as regulations from Bill 16 take effect, 40 per cent of respondents said they intended to keep their current level of operations, 31 per cent said it would "depend on expectations and discussions with the health authority," 18 per cent said they would likely expand and 8 per cent said they would move away from publicly funded assisted living.

"Those numbers concern me," BCCPA chief executive officer Daniel Fontaine said in an interview. "We have to work with the ministry and the health authorities to get this right, in terms of Bill 16."

The report also flagged the potential for increasing property values to drive demand for assisted-living services, as some people made windfall gains from selling property they can then use to pay for assisted-living services and accommodation.

John Horgan is set to be B.C. premier after Christy Clark's Liberals were defeated Thursday in a non-confidence vote in the legislature. The NDP leader says growth is important for the province, which he called the 'envy of Canada.'

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