There weren't any announcements on Sept. 7 for seniors housing funding, but there appears to have been a major step taken in the right direction.

An application for some government funding is expected to be made within the next few weeks by the Rocky View Foundation to help fund a new Big Hill Lodge, says local MLA Peter Guthrie, also Alberta Infrastructure minister.

Should it be received by the end of September, there would be enough time for it to be considered for inclusion in the province's 2024 budget.

Yesterday, Jason Nixon, Alberta Seniors, Community and Social Services minister, and Guthre toured the Big Hill Lodge, Bethany Cochrane, and met with officials of Family and Community Support Services and Cochrane Society for Housing Options (CHSO).

Nixon says he got a first-hand look at the aging Big Hill Lodge and encouraged the Rocky View Foundation to apply for funding from a recently announced pot of $65 million.

"Mr. Guthrie did a good job, in my view, as MLA of getting me here because the challenges with that facility are really hard to see when reading a paper."

He says seeing it firsthand will assist him in making a case to assist with the project from a $65 million pot recently announced.

"What I will do today is go back and make clear to Edmonton what I saw in the old facility, which is clearly an aging facility that has significant infrastructure issues, and make sure that that need is understood," says Nixon.

Guthrie says replacing the Big Hill Lodge has become his number one project now that the construction of the Hwy. 1A-22 interchange is underway.

"They (Rocky View Foundation) have an application that they're going to be submitting here probably in the next week to two weeks, so what we wanted to do is bring Minister Nixon here to just sort of have a little preemptive discussion on what the numbers look like, and what are they thinking about for that future project," says Guthrie.

He says Mayor Jeff Genung was also in attendance. The town will be making a major contribution towards the project by providing the land.

Guthrie believes it was a positive meeting and believes the project will become a high priority.

"We had a fantastic meeting. They will be submitting and it got a very high priority, I would say, with the minister. After seeing the state of Big Hill, he's come to recognize in pretty short order that there's a real need there."

The application needs to be submitted by the end of September. All applications submitted will be evaluated through October and November and projects they choose to support will go to the Treasury Board for consideration in December, with funding decisions expected to be finalized in January,

Nixon says he was impressed with the information provided by CSHO executive director Kevin McDonald on other affordable housing needs of the community. CSHO is in the early stages of revising its housing strategy.

"His information and the impact on the need for housing in Cochrane is amongst the best I've seen in three months," says Nixon. "In fact, I'll be bringing him up to Edmonton to see if he can help us in other areas of the province, so he did a very good job of making clear what the need is here in Cochrane and I'm really excited to go back to Edmonton and have a conversation with the department about what I learned here today."

The three-phase plan announced in 2017 for Bethany Cochrane was among the topics discussed while touring their Quigley Drive housing facility, says Nixon.

That plan included 32 market-rate lodge housing units, affordable housing, and further long-term care. The latter two very much depended upon government funding.

Jennifer McCue, Bethany president and chief executive officer was among those present.

"We continue to be optimistic that we will be able to eventually get that project off the ground, and we continue our discussions," she says.

While recognizing Cochrane's needs, Nixon said it isn't a unique scenario in the province.

"The issues that we've talked about today, we hear everywhere we go across the province," says Nixon. "There is an extraordinary demand for housing overall. I think that is because of the great work that Alberta has done to turn our economy around and the fact that we're now leading the economic recovery in North America here in Alberta."

He says the province will be investing over a billion dollars into affordable housing over the next three years 

"Between now and 2031, we are investing $9 billion in partnership with the federal government and municipalities to create 25,000 new homes in our province, and I think the projects I've heard about today fit in with that conversation."

In response to Canada's Online News Act and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) removing access to local news from their platforms, CochraneNow encourages you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the CochraneNow app.