‘Life lease’ apartment complex turning 20

Saturday's gathering will celebrate accomplishment that lives on today

It’s been 20 years since several members of the Royal Canadian Legion in Wyoming, which had bought a parcel of land across the street from its then-new hall on Erie Street, got the idea that a good use of the property might be to build a senior’s residence.

This Saturday, they’re throwing themselves a party to celebrate the anniversary and at least one of the organizers has fond memories about how things came together for one of the area’s first so-called “life leases” which returns 100% of the money a resident puts into their apartment once they leave.

Bill Abbott, a now-retired chemical engineer who spent much of his career at DuPont, spoke to Lambton Shield about how Royaleigh came together those 20 years ago.

The original group, which had organized itself separately from the Legion, had local architect Tom Richards (who died in 2013) prepare drawings for a 42-unit, two story building. A construction firm (Southside Construction, which had a local office) was hired and the organizers began the process of firming up financing.

The original money—about $100 each—came from memberships, but when it came to financing for the development it was clear that borrowed money would be needed. Abbott says the group was verbally assured that this wouldn’t be a problem.

But local banks didn’t have the authority they needed to make a final decision.

They had been told verbally by local banks that there shouldn’t be any problems, but when the project went forward, the final decision had to go to Toronto.

Another decision helped ensure that the project would move forward was getting the early adopters to agree to stick with one wing of the complex (the 21-unit east side).

While there are perhaps only a dozen or so of the original members still in the building, Abbott said the Royaleigh remains a vibrant community of people who have remained committed to the ongoing project.

“This is their home,” he says. “It’s not a rental. The building and all that’s associated with it is ours and people treat it like their own property.”

Abbott, whose pride in the building was apparent when we toured the facility, says having a vibrant seniors residence in Wyoming has made a big difference in the lives of seniors who made the decision to live here over the years.

For example, someone who pays about $125,000 for a lease will receive all that money back if they decide to move.

“In the meantime, I pay just $410 a month for heat, electricity and electricity,” he says. The only extras are phone and Internet.

Abbott credits good communication with members in the early days of the project as being critical to its success.

Saturday’s celebration will include refreshments and various displays—static and video—showing how the Royaleigh was put together those 20 years ago.

Get the Lambton Shield Daily Brief in your inbox:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.