In the year 2000 the question came up of how to create affordable housing for seniors. The Parish Council set up a seniors’ housing committee and this later become the St. Andrews Seniors’ Housing Association (SASHA).
The committee members felt it was critical for the seniors’ apartments to be self-financing once they were built. Even though land was donated (by Bergengren Credit Union), building materials discounted (by 2 local businesses), and labour volunteered (by community members), it was not possible to reduce the monthly rent to an affordable amount for a senior citizen. A newly established government affordable housing program was investigated. The Regional Director for Housing Services for the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services initially had doubts about the capacity of a small non-profit group being able to build, manage and sustain a multi-unit housing project. “And then,” he recalls, “we got the tour…we saw the curling rink [that had been] funded by selling of shares, [and] the community centre. We were amazed at how well maintained everything was”. The $25,000 per unit subsidy for an eight-unit building was testament to the confidence that St. Andrews’ community spirit had inspired, and this was soon followed by a grant from the Municipality of the County of Antigonish.
A local engineering firm agreed to do the initial drawings that were needed for the application to government without charge. As with both the Community Centre and curling rink, the construction of the seniors’ building depended heavily on community volunteers. Two local contractors voluntarily did the preparation of the ground along with the work on the foundation. Following the example of the building of the curling rink, two skilled carpenters were hired to provide the expertise and to direct the work of volunteers. Seven farmers agreed to give a day of their labour to put in the roof trusses but stayed an entire week to finish the roof.