Located in the city of Greensburg, Ind., the new property provides 40 affordable apartments for seniors at a time when the elderly population is booming nationwide.
The estimates are staggering as the mighty baby boom generation ages. By 2030, more than 70 million Americans will be 65 or older, twice the number in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. The coming “gray wave” will surely increase the need for affordable seniors housing.
To develop Historic Greensburg Square Apartments, developers Flaherty & Collins Properties and Thrive Alliance renewed four derelict buildings in the city’s courthouse square. The move is adding vitality to the heart of downtown and providing valuable housing.
“Having a community of seniors living in their historic downtown provides a perfect environment and support system for this population to age in place together,” says Duane Miller. “As one of the veterans told a group of us at the open house, ‘Now I can call this place home.’ ”
“Aging in place” is the ability of people to live in their long-term homes and communities safely, comfortably, and independently for as long as possible, regardless of age, income level, or physical ability. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) is among the state housing finance agencies thinking hard about supporting seniors housing in a way that helps it meet these criteria. As part of this effort, IHCDA recently completed an aging-in-place study by interviewing senior residents and property managers.
Aging in place usually focuses on adapting a house or apartment to meet residents’ needs, but the IHCDA study found that a property’s location plays a big role in creating a feeling of being at home, says Jacob Sipe, IHCDA’s executive director.
“The location meant they had access to services, access to retail, access to where they can do their banking, and access to the doctor’s office,” he says.
The study urges IHCDA to embrace the importance of place by adopting a more comprehensive view of “aging in community” and incentivizing desirable locations.
The findings led to several changes in the agency’s 2016–2017 qualified allocation plan (QAP) for reserving low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs). IHCDA sets aside 10% of its housing credits for elderly housing.
In the new QAP, the highest-scoring category is “desirable sites.” This includes being close to retail, services, and civic and community facilities.
In addition, IHCDA has made universal design features a threshold requirement instead of a scoring category. “We recognized that one of the comments we consistently saw was the importance of having accessible units and universal design features,” Sipe says. “We decided to raise the bar.”
The agency is reviewing 16 applications and expects to make its LIHTC reservations in February.
The aging-in-place study helped shape the latest QAP but is important for another reason, as well. “I think it also helps developers, giving them more information as to what makes their properties attractive,” says Sipe. “I hope this isn’t just a tool for public policy. I hope this is also a tool for communities and developers to meet the needs of our aging population.”
An answer for Greensburg
The Historic Greensburg Square Apartments is one of the more recent seniors housing developments to open in Indiana. The project involved the rehabilitation of several prominent buildings in the city, including the old Seitz Hotel, a YMCA, and two other nearby buildings.
A tornado blew the roof off the historic hotel building several years ago, leading to significant water damage as it sat vacant and in disrepair. “It was teetering on the brink of needing to come down, so that was a good save for the project,” says Mark Lindenlaub, executive director of Thrive Alliance, a nonprofit that provides a wide range of social and human services to residents of south central Indiana.
The vacant YMCA building also held strong significance. “From an emotional and cultural perspective, the YMCA was an institution from the 1920s on in the community,” Lindenlaub says. “A lot of people went there for recreation and social activities. It was a strong touchstone for many.”
The gymnasium has been preserved and is available for residents to use, and developers hope it will have wider community use in the future.
Home to residents 62 years and older, the different buildings were developed as one $9.5 million project that serves residents earning between 30% and 60% of the area median income (AMI).
The hotel and Y buildings each have 14 units, and the two others each have six. One building by itself would have likely been too small to earn LIHTCs or to finance efficiently, so that led the development to acquire all the buildings.
Thrive Alliance, the region’s Area Agency on Aging, is charged with helping vulnerable older adults in their homes and communities. It can provide residents with meals and other support to help them stay in their homes as long as possible.
Financing for the project included about $8.3 million in LIHTC equity from Alliant Capital. In addition to awarding the credits, IHCDA provided $400,000 from its development fund and $400,000 in HOME funds. First Merchants Bank and MainSource Bank were the lenders.
Cottages for an independent lifestyle
Indianapolis-based Herman & Kittle Properties is a veteran developer that builds seniors, family, and other housing in 15 states. In line with the recent study findings, most of the company’s seniors housing communities are located near amenities.
Most of Herman & Kittle’s seniors housing communities consist of four-story buildings, but Cottages at Sheek Road is a one-story, drive-up development. The average age of the residents runs a little younger than those who live at the company’s multistory buildings, according to Kittle.
Several content residents have described Cottages at Sheek Road as the last move they will have to make.
The IHCDA study found that seniors love single-story, private-entrance apartments like the ones this property offers. For many of the seniors, this is their first apartment, and it helps with the transition from homeownership to renting. Cottage-style apartments also help facilitate independence.
Creating a sense of community through services and programs is one of the ways Herman & Kittle has tried to facilitate aging in place at its various developments.
retired and are not working,” Kittle says. “They spend more time in the [housing development]. Having a community with other residents is important. We try to have either a full-time or a part-time activities director to promote different activities for the residents, because they are there more than a family household [would be].”
The $10 million Cottages at Sheek Road was financed largely with LIHTCs. Herman & Kittle’s financing partners included Red Stone Equity Partners, Pacific Life Insurance Co., and JPMorgan Chase.
National Church Residences (NCR), one of the nation’s largest owners of affordable housing, with approximately 22,600 units for seniors, families, and special-needs residents, is also thinking hard about aging-in-place strategies.
One of its big initiatives is to preserve all of its affordable housing communities. “For us, that means looking at our own real estate and making sure we’ve done major rehabs every place we can, and when we do them, to make sure we look at the amount of community space and how we use it,” says Michelle Norris, president of National Church Residences Development Corp.
“The goal is to fix the bricks and sticks at the same time we implement the vision of bringing in services,” says Norris. This could mean increasing the size of the space or redesigning it to be more functional. Norris calls the process “elderly transformative preservation.”
The work is starting at the Landings of St. Andrew in New Port Richey, Fla., near Tampa.
The team has received a 9% LIHTC award that will help the organization preserve the 18-year-old building. It was designed with a number of smaller community spaces, so the plan is to redesign the building to have one floor that will focus on health care, including medical exam rooms for visiting doctors. There will also be a more robust fitness center.
A bolder example of NCR’s preservation effort is Chimes Terrace in Johnstown, Ohio. The Sec. 202 property needed to be recapitalized and updated, which led NCR to consider a deeper transformation. In 2011, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the firm a $3.6 million Assisted Living Conversion Program (ALCP) grant to convert 24 of the property’s 60 units into affordable, licensed, assisted-living units. As a result, Chimes Terrace now offers both affordable independent living and affordable assisted living in the same building. Seniors in the affordable units can access a meal program and other services found in the assisted-living section.
The financing for the $12.8 million project also includes nearly $4 million in LIHTC equity from the National Affordable Housing Trust.
“The independent-living residents have access to a lot of services because they are co-located in the same building,” Norris says. “We consider that a true elderly transformative preservation project.”
In another move, the firm is exploring a model based on a continuum-of-care structure, where independent living, assisted living, and memory care are on one campus.
Continuums such as these have typically been in market-rate communities with an expensive entry-fee model. NCR is looking to adapt the continuum concept into a pure rental model targeted to residents who have more income than is allowed in LIHTC communities but less income and fewer assets than it takes to move into many of the continuing-care retirement community (CCRC) campuses.