B.C.’s 10 Best Communities for Semi-retirement

The Glass Half Full


It says something about our youth-oriented culture that retirement has become such a loaded word. Semi-retired just sounds so much better. Some cash out early and devote their lives to chasing powder or to running a philanthropic foundation. Others might continue to work in their field as consultants or even partners with an eye to cutting back their hours to suit their travel or recreational desires.

One thing is certain: real estate developers are keeping a wary eye on what tomorrow’s seniors are looking for, and are tailoring their offerings based on the most accurate demographic data and creative branding they can muster. There’s a lot at stake, especially for smaller communities that may not be prepared for an onslaught of newcomers. The most progressive developers are the ones who are investing in the long game and know the timeline for creating a successful community is measured in decades, not years. Here are the up-and-comers.

Photo by McKinley Beach


Many people considering downsizing want it all; they want to live in a remote natural location yet still be connected to a city or decent-sized airport. North of Kelowna, McKinley Beach and University Heights will appeal to two very different demographics. McKinley Beach is a single-family home subdivision with a kilometre of shared waterfront on Okanagan Lake. Almost 365 ha in size, McKinley will be restricted to fewer than 300 homes, all of which offer views of Okanagan Lake. McKinley is less than a half-hour from downtown Kelowna.

Located adjacent to the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) campus, Univerity Heights is marketed to a broad range of home buyers; it’s the perfect step up from a starter home for young families and pacsks a lot of value for downsizing empty-nesters who still want space for entertaining and hosting grandchildren. Still selling in Phase 1, University Heights will eventually be one of many neighbourhoods surrounding the campus, and is attractive to both UBCO and Kelowna International Airport employees.


Many developments are anchored by some kind of recreational experience. But recreational amenities alone aren’t enough to ensure community longevity, especially if they are located too far from the nearest town or city. Ironically, a high percentage of people who purchase golf-course property don’t even play the game, they simply enjoy the built-in sense of community. Predator Ridge, 17 km outside of Vernon, established a reputation by providing an outstanding golf experience with new activities anchored by state-of-the-art fitness centre and on-site events that run year-round.

A population explosion over the past decade in the Comox Valley has necessitated a variety of housing options at Crown Isle, a multi-phase residential community near the Comox Airport. (Courtney/Comox owes much of its second home boom to easily accessible flights from Calgary on WestJet). Like Predator Ridge, golf anchors the recreational aspect, but this 352-hectare master planned residential community is a thoughtful blend of residential lots, new and re-sale single family homes, condominiums, low-rise patio homes and commercial complexes such as Costco and a new Thrifty Foods.

Increasingly, privately owned community centres are seen as holding the key to developing bonds between homeowners. Like Crown Isle and Predator Ridge, Fairwinds in Nanaimo started as a golf resort but has major plans that go well beyond. A 350-berth marina has broadened Northwind’s appeal and in its next stage. The Landing at Fairwinds will feature a new community hub with a 40,000-square-foot waterfront building. Established over 25 years ago, Fairwinds is located 20 minutes north of Nanaimo. The community is already home to more than 1,000 residents, while approvals are in place to allow for an additional 2,000 homes to be built. Shuswap Lake Estates near Blind Bay sold its first vacation lots back in 1971, years before its golf course was built. Amost 50 years later, 526 hectares of property have been developed with more than 1,000 home sites and an 18-hole golf course. The true heart of Shuswap Lake Estates, however, is its community hall. On any given day, residents will gather for line-dancing, yoga spin-classes, pool/snooker, bridge, quilting and even inter-denominational church services.

Retirees continue to explore new sports, such as kayaking, when they reduce their work schedules. Photo by Fairwinds


The idea of retirement community is anathema to baby boomers who feel that they will feel forever young and vibrant. Recognizing that people are semi-retiring at a younger age, new developments such as Cadence on the Lakes in the Okanagan’s Lake Country community have dropped their age of ownership from over 55 to over 45. Some age-restricted developments have a higher level of building maintenance that sees to snow removal, lawn cutting and even gardening chores.

Photo courtesy of Fairwinds


Prospective purchasers who visited the site of what would become the Cottages at Osoyoos Lake back in 2012 were wowed by the location; a rugged desert wilderness bordering the placid waters of one of Canada’s warmest lakes. Since the 28-hectare master planned community has evolved, it’s been the friendships and camaraderie that residents rave about the most. Communal bonds are strengthened through regular interaction on the walking trails or by the swimming pool, or from planned activities that take place at the 7,000-square-foot clubhouse.

Photo courtesy of Crown Isle Resort


Perhaps the most innovative communities are those that are being developed in existing suburban neighborhoods that older people don’t want to leave; places like North and West Vancouver, Tsawwassen/White Rock, Victoria and Kelowna. Seniors don’t have to change their doctors or pharmacists and can remain close to friends and family.

In Tsawwassen, the Century Group’s Southlands community pays tribute to Tsawwassen’s farming tradition; future plans call for a vibrant market district to socialize with new neighbours. This project is in the planning stages with presales scheduled for 2020. Whether you are downsizing, looking for your first home or searching for space for your kids to run free, Southlands is both sustainable and acessible.

Photo courtesy of Fairwinds


One way in which developers promote community spirit is by looking at how a neighbourhood streetscape can be altered to encourage chance encounters between residents. This philosophy is guiding the planning and development of The Ridge in Nanaimo, where local hiking trails and natural features are integrated into the neighbourhood as well. Creative parking solutions diminish the amount of asphalt used and encourage the planting of native vegetation.

The outdoors is calling to anyone who’s traded in the office life for new recreational pursuits.


In the heydey of Alberta’s booming energy industry, tens of thousands of Calgarians were puchasing property in Invermere and Radium Hot Springs. Fairmont Hot Springs has been popular with campers and vacation-home owners since the late 1940s. It’s newest phase is called Mountainside Ridge, where spacious third-of-an-acre lots  are almost 50 per cent sold. Fairmont residents enjoy any number of activities such as golf, cycling, and hiking. Fairmont even has on-site campgrounds to house visiting family and relatives who prefer the RV lifestyle.


When it comes to making money on a second home or retirement property often it’s the early bird who reaps the biggest profits. While there’s not much to see at Two Waters on Equimalt Lagoon in the city of Colwood on Vancouver Island right now, what makes this an interesting investment is the fact that current housing in the area in scarce. This master planned community will have a broad variety of housing options to appeal to both young Victoria-area professionals, mid-career dual-income families and downsizers from all parts of Canada. Environmental sustainability and wetlands with riparian preservation will be at the forefront of this progressive new neighbourhood just a 20-minute drive from Victoria. Pre-sales will be with Rennie Marketing Systems.                         –Steven Threndyle