RICHMOND, VA. - The Better Housing Coalition (BHC) put seniors housing at the center of its Winchester Greens development.
About a third of the housing units in this redeveloped apartment complex are set aside for seniors, making these elderly tenants a big part of the community’s life. The 69 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments in the recently completed third phase of the Market Square Senior Apartments brings the total number of seniors apartments in Winchester Greens to 175.
“We believe in mixed housing. That can be mixed income, mixed race and definitely mixed age,” said Lynne McAteer, director of development for BHC, a local affordable housing developer.
Most of these seniors apartments are set on the main street in the center of the New Urbanist-style community, planned by Urban Design Associates, based in Pittsburgh.
The mixed-income community, which replaced a run-down, crime-plagued complex of 220 apartments, includes 240 rental townhouses and 80 single-family homes. There’s also 75,000 square feet of retail space, including a bank branch and a dollar store, set on the edge of the community where Winchester Green meets the busy Jefferson Davis Highway. Market Square was developed to be energy efficient, healthy for its residents, and good for the environment. Part of that means conserving electricity and providing the apartments with good ventilation. But BHC is also concerned with keeping its residents healthy and using their energies to support the community.
Several Market Square seniors earn a stipend for working with the children of Winchester Green at the childcare center next to their building. Even more volunteer at the childcare center, participate in community gardening, or use the community swimming pool and fitness center.
Although the units are reserved for seniors 55 or older, the average new resident is 73 and the typical income is only about $12,000 a year. The overwhelming majority of these seniors are female, either widowed or divorced, and most are living on Social Security and a small pension.
Eight of the apartments are reserved for seniors earning up to 40 percent of the area median income (AMI). The rest of the apartments at Market Square will rent to tenants earning a range of incomes up to 60 percent of AMI.
About one in five of the residents still hold part-time jobs, though most of the seniors have at least one chronic health condition that requires ongoing care.
All of BHC’s seniors housing developments provide their residents with access to an array of services aimed at helping seniors successfully age in place, delaying the time when they have to move into assisted living or a hospital.
BHC provides the services, including social and recreational activities, on-site health screenings, and health care coordination and medication assistance, at no extra cost to residents. A variety of community service groups, mostly local nonprofits, provide health and wellness classes, and a social worker provides assistance with entitlement programs.
It would cost the residents several hundred dollars a month if they had to pay for a package of services like these from private providers, according to the developer.
BHC also runs several intergenerational programs designed to connect the children who live in Winchester Greens with the Market Square seniors.
To pay for the $6.5 million third phase at Market Square, BHC raised $4.7 million in equity from the sale of 9 percent low-income housing tax credits, which sold for 83 cents on the dollar. The Virginia Housing Development Authority also provided Market Square with a $1.1 million mortgage loan made with proceeds from the sale of taxable bonds and a $750,000 loan from the Sponsoring Partnerships and Revitalizing Communities program with an interest rate of 4.5 percent.