Through sunshine and drizzle, 91-year-old Lydia Kania was quick with the smiles as she hiked the Slocan Valley Rail Trail. For three days in fall 2016, she and about 90 other participants hiked or biked 47 kilometres, all the way from Crescent Valley to the Village of Slocan. The goal: to raise funds for new affordable housing for seniors in the Slocan Valley.

Out of the $45,000 the event raised, Kania alone raised $7,000. “I’m not afraid to go up to a person and ask them if they would donate, because I think it’s a good project.” Although she still lives in her own home, she says, “People that live in this valley, they don’t want to move to the city when they get so they can’t handle things.”

Thanks to so much support, seniors in the valley—almost 50 per cent of its population—will soon have a new option. The Slocan Valley Seniors Housing Society plans to construct eight new affordable housing units in the Village of Slocan. This is in addition to the 10 units the society already offers in Passmore Lodge, which it opened in 1999.

“A lot of the people, as they age, can’t take care of their rural places or become very isolated, especially if they lose their ability to drive,” says Rita Moir, Society President. “Having eight affordable units of housing in the middle of a village, where they can walk to services, is going to make a tremendous difference to people’s lives.”

Supporters of the project include BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust. The Trust works with communities and groups to help ensure Basin residents have access to affordable housing that meets their basic needs, while BC Housing helps provide a wide range of subsidized housing options across the province.

“Trust staff met with our board several times, encouraged us throughout and have always been available when we asked,” says Moir. “They helped assess our society’s strengths and needs, respected our society’s capabilities and were able to confer as we put together our Slocan housing plans and budgets.”

Moir also notes the contributions of a landscape architect and many other professionals, the Regional District of Central Kootenay, the Village of Slocan and the Slocan Valley Economic Development Commission, among others.

“People want to stay in their home communities,” says Moir.

“…it keeps communities intact to have people of all incomes and age levels be able to stay where home is.”

As for Kania, she says the new housing project is “pretty near my heart. I think it’s wonderful what this valley is doing.”