The residency at the Botanical Garden in east Montreal will close its doors next August, La Presse has learned. Consequence: 62 seniors, some of whom are at very high risk, have to be relocated to other facilities in the area.
Posted at 5:00 am.
The closure of the private senior residence (RPA) will be announced to residents and staff this Wednesday, the owner, Kevin Moïse Hazout, confirmed to us in a written statement sent to us in response to our questions.
“The decision to close the RPA is fundamentally based on the significant difficulties experienced in recruiting staff and welcoming new residents over the last two years, all against a backdrop of significant increases in operating costs. After thoroughly analyzing all scenarios, we unfortunately had to decide to close RPA. »
“Until then, all services will be fully maintained,” Mr. Hazout also states.
This closure is in addition to several others that have taken place across Quebec over the past year. According to a compilation by La Presse, at least 77 RPAs in the province have closed their doors in 2023, meaning more than 2,700 fewer accommodations for seniors (see other text).
The Residence at the Botanical Garden will therefore close on August 17, despite municipal regulations prohibiting the conversion of RPAs into rental buildings since 2022. “The entire process is carried out in full compliance with all applicable Quebec and municipal regulations,” assures Mr. Hazout.
PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, THE PRESS
The Botanical Garden Residence will be closed on August 17th.
However, the owner's representatives contacted the municipal authorities only two days ago and a meeting only took place on Tuesday, says the district of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. “No request for change was made,” explains spokeswoman Judith Gratton-Gervais.
“A communication was subsequently sent to the owner’s spokesperson reminding him that the district would not accept a project that would reduce the supply of housing. If a homeowner begins remodeling without permission, they may face legal action. » Fines of $2,000 per day could also be imposed.
However, late on Tuesday evening, Mr Hazout sent us an email from the head of the district's urban planning department, Félix Champagne-Picotte, which said: “The fact that an owner decides to cease operations, regardless of the use, does not apply. “constitute a breach of the applicable regulations”.
One thing is certain: Résidence du Jardin Botanique has been welcoming new customers for several months, according to our sources. To a journalist who claimed she was trying to find an RPA for her elderly mother, site staff responded this week that the building was being converted. “Your mother needs to be independent. We have not been offering services since July. It is now the CLSC that provides the services,” he was told. The customer base is now “mixed,” it was said. “Young people come in too. »
At the beginning of the week, residents were completely unaware of the possibility of reconversion. “We are still an RPA, I have no information about any changes,” said Debra Steven, 76, an 11-year resident of the building. There are other types of customers in the building now, but I think that's a good thing. » No, there are no longer services for seniors in the building, “everyone gave up the services because it was too expensive,” and yes, some of the older guests have packed their bags, notes Ms. Steven. “But I don’t want to move. »
Who is Kevin Moise Hazout?
According to the register of private retirement residences in Quebec, three companies own Résidence du Jardin Botanique: Investissements Kemy, Groupe Hazout and Investissements Gadex. These three companies are shareholders of Investissements 5930 Pie-IX Inc., which bought Résidence du Jardin Botanique for 17.5 million in 2021, according to the Quebec Land Registry. Kevin Moïse Hazout is president of all these companies.
The Botanical Garden Residence can accommodate 150 tenants, according to Quebec's registry of private senior residences. The CIUSSS de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal has already purchased up to 106 places in this facility, including 40 medium resource places intended for seniors with a fairly advanced loss of autonomy. But the building now has only 62 seniors, Mr. Hazout says.
The latter is a director of around sixty companies in Quebec, mainly active in the real estate sector. Through his companies he has several addresses in Montreal, but also in Quebec and Montérégie.
His company Immeuble 2380 Sainte-Catherine Est inc. For example, she is the owner of the former Ste-Catherine retirement home in the Ville-Marie district. The facility housed around a hundred elderly people who lost their autonomy until it closed in 2022. However, Mr Hazout did not buy the building until July 2023, according to the land registry. The building, which was apparently on fire, is now boarded up.
PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, THE PRESS
The former Ste-Catherine retirement home is now boarded up.
A controversial owner
In the summer of 2022, Mr. Hazout made a name for himself in Montérégie after purchasing around ten buildings in Cowansville and five 24-unit buildings in Granby. Julie Coderre, from the Family Economy Cooperative Association (ACEF) of Montérégie-Est, expressed interest in the transactions: she denounced the fact that Mr. Hazout's company offered money (sometimes $3,000) to certain more vulnerable tenants to encourage them to leave Leave to move.
“Some tenants felt they had no choice but to leave. Others thought they could move for the same price and found the $3,000 tempting. But due to the real estate crisis, this amount was quickly used up,” says Ms. Coderre.
Marie-Claire Hébert, 69, has lived in her Cowansville home for 31 years. Since the building was purchased by a company owned by Mr. Hazout in 2021, she has complained that the windows of two of her rooms, whose edges are badly moldy, have still not been replaced despite her repeated requests.
When we call we are always told that someone will call us back, but no one ever calls back. […]. They just want to raise money. They don't want to know about the rest of us.
This objected to the rent increases that the new owner had considered abusive since 2021.
In January 2022, a group of tenants from the Sainte-Marie district (eastern part of the Ville-Marie district) denounced in the Métro newspaper abusive rent increases and spoke of an attempted eviction by Mr. Hazout. In 2021, tenants of 2839 Boulevard de la Côte-Vertu in Saint-Laurent also complained in the Métro newspaper of having suffered “intimidating, harassing and fraudulent” maneuvers by the Hazout group. Some said they terminated their lease because they felt obligated to do so.
These claims were refuted by the Hazout group, which assured in the Métro newspaper that there was “no exit agreement”. [avait] were negotiated in good faith and in mutual agreement with the affected tenants.
We asked Mr. Hazout his opinion on all these stories. “We will not comment publicly on the specific situations of our tenants,” he replied to us in writing, also pointing out that he “does not share the positions reported in the media.”
A contested regulation… and circumvented?
It is not the first time that a large retirement home in the metropolis has closed its doors. In 2022, the closure of the Mont Carmel Residence to convert it into a traditional rental home caused the vast majority of the 200 tenants to find new housing. Much ink was spilled on the incident, and as of October 2022, 13 boroughs of the city of Montreal have adopted regulations to prevent such reversions. However, these regulations were challenged in court. No verdict has yet been issued in these cases.
PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE
In 2022, the closure of the Mont Carmel Residence forced the vast majority of its 200 tenants to find new housing.
“Once a district has adopted this policy, it is impossible for an RPA to change it [en immeuble locatif]. “The district must issue permits for the zoning change and will reject it,” said Béatrice Saulnier, press secretary in Mayor Valérie Plante’s office. However, around ten RPAs were closed in Montreal in 2023 (see other text).
Each RPA closure creates headaches for health services as they scramble to rehouse residents, some of whom have great needs.
An RPA that closes must notify the local health and social services network nine months in advance, specifies Joëlle Jetté, spokesperson for the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre. “This delay will allow home support teams from each CISSS to provide intensive support to seniors in their area affected by the closure. Together, they identify needs and take steps to find a new living environment that satisfies the person,” she says.
But the CISSS sometimes needs to “relocate seniors in emergencies.” [ressources intermédiaires] or CHSLDs clogging the network,” adds a member of the management of a Montreal CIUSSS, who asked us not to use his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
It must be said that the shortage of places in health and social care is glaring: people wait several months for a place in the CHSLD, as La Presse revealed last autumn. And every closure of a private retirement home increases this pressure.