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EFA 2013: Demand for affordable senior housing soars. No end in sight.

April 9, 2013
by Charlene Marietti, Executive Director, Editorial Initiatives
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Even as the housing market begins to rebound, retirement community organizations continue to search for ways to sustain the growth of their communities and expand services. This is no small challenge. Nor is it one likely to cool in the coming years.

There are currently more than 41,400,000 people in the U.S. age 65 and over, but that number is dwarfed by the 82,800,000 in the 45 to 65 age bracket who will need aging housing and services. In 2010, 40 percent of the U.S. population were age 45 and over. To compound the number of aging individuals, one in three working Americans has no retirement savings other than Social Security and 35% over the age of 65 rely almost entirely on Social Security alone.

There is no need to do more math. Bottom line: There are a lot of people now who need affordable housing and the demand is going to grow significantly.

Rodney Fenstermacher, corporate director of construction at Presbyterian Senior Living (York, Pa.) a not-for-profit organization, shared how his organization is meeting housing needs with attendees at the Environments for Aging Conference in New Orleans. The organization started with rentals, he said, but has developed an integrated facility with both market rate and affordable care (tax credit) housing on the same campus.

There are distinct advantages in terms of a shared infrastructure and a broad spectrum of people in the community. But it was not without controversy. Overcoming resistance to affordable housing a popular and desirable retirement community with its share of McMansions was not easy. But education and now, experience have prevailed. “The seniors take good care of their [affordable] housing,” said Fenstermacher, but “it was a big education challenge. Education of the community and other residents is critical.”

It worked well that market rate housing was available and filled first.  And, yes, the differences between the market rate units and the affordable housing buildings are always going to be a  sensitive area. Even if the carpet costs the same, Fenstermacher makes sure they are different colors between the two buildings because the residents take notice. “Market rate people need to feel they are getting for what they’ve paid for and the tax credit/affordable housing people don’t want to feel like the stepchildren,” he noted.

Trends change at Senior Presbyterian Living, like other places. “We are never going to get it right because the demands keep changing,” said Fenstermacher.When he started, people wanted two bedroom units, but that has changed. Now one bedroom units are in higher demand.

Market demand has been high at Presbyterian Senior Living. Based on interest and the demand, the organization’s long term phasing quickly became short-term. They built a unit five years before it was planned.

Loved EFA 2013? Or, missed it and wish you hadn’t? Join us for EFA 2014 May 3-6, 2014 in Anaheim! Details to come on www.environmentsforaging.com!

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