Over the next four decades as the nation's baby boomers age, more than 48 million people are projected to be added to the ranks of the 65 and older population. What's even more staggering, the 85 and older population is expected to more than triple from 5.8 million in 2010
to 19 million in 2050, according to the Center for Housing Policy.
“The reality is we are not prepared at all,
not in Social Security, not in Medicare, not in housing, definitely
not in housing,” says Laverne Joseph, president of the
California-based Retirement Housing Foundation, which owns 160
communities, nearly all serving seniors, in 26 states. The
nonprofit's residents include 60
RHF recently completed a $43 million rehab of its Angelus Plaza
development in Los Angeles, the largest affordable housing
community for seniors with 1,093 units.
About a year ago, RHF announced it would open the waiting list
for an apartment on a Monday. People began lining up Sunday
evening, and by the next morning the line stretched several blocks.
Administrators passed out 4,000 applications to seniors just hoping
to get on the list. Roughly 2,400 people met the age and income
requirements for the property, which serves seniors 62 and older
who earn no more than 50 percent of the area median income.
“Some people will never get to the top of the
list,” Joseph says.
The need is only going to increase.
“Many factors will contribute to a large
demand for affordable housing for older adults,” says
Emily Salomon, state and local policy coordinator at the Center for
Housing Policy. “There's an
enormous increase in population size, with the 65 and older
population doubling and the 85 and older population expected to
triple by 2050.”
Those sheer numbers indicate that there will be a huge wave of
people looking for affordable housing.
As people age, cost burdens increase, according to Salomon, one
of the authors of the Center's recent report,
“Housing an Aging Population: Are We
Older adult households are more likely than younger families to
spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, a threshold
for determining if one has a housing cost burden. People paying 50
percent or more of their income on housing are considered to have a
severe cost burden.
According to the Center, there are 9.6 million households 65
years and older that have a moderate or severe housing cost
The shadow cast by the Great Recession also looms large.
Although the picture is not entirely clear, the fear is that many
middle-age families have fallen underwater due to job losses and
foreclosures. They have used up their savings, and as they age they
will continue to be financially strapped.
The other critical concern is health. Salomon points out that a
large number of older households have members with
As all signs point to a fast-growing need for more affordable
housing, funding to develop projects is shrinking.
“As the population is growing, the
appropriations and supply are dropping,” says Bill
Kelly, president and CEO of Stewards of Affordable Housing for the
Future (SAHF), a network of 12 social enterprise nonprofits.
“We've reduced our
investments, there are long waiting lists, and we need to step it
Tom Slemmer, president and CEO of National Church Residences
(NCR), agrees. “Affordable housing production is
going to be in great stress,” attributing this to
budget cuts and the aging affordable housing stock.
“We're losing affordable
seniors housing faster than we're able to
build,” he adds. “I think
it's a serious problem. As we show cost
effectiveness more clearly, we're hoping to
shift opinions so affordable housing will be seen as a worthy
expenditure by the government.”
Kelly points to the downsizing of the Sec. 202 program as one of
the culprits. “It's gone from
a very large program to a small program to nothing,” he
says. In the 1970s, tens of thousands of Sec. 202 units were built
for seniors. But those numbers trickled down to 3,000 to 4,000 a
year, with no new money for the program in the fiscal 2012 HUD
budget. The Housepassed bill for fiscal 2013 includes $50 million
for new Sec. 202 units, but that figure is not set in stone since
the House and Senate will approve a six-month continuing resolution
in September to keep the government running.
RHF relies on a number of funding sources, including low-income
housing tax credits (LIHTCs), tax-exempt bonds, and the Sec. 202
program, to build its communities.
Back in the 1980s, it wasn't unusual for the
organization to be developing 10 new Sec. 202 properties at a time.
In 2007, it opened two, and in 2010 it opened just one project but
acquired several others, according to Joseph.
The LIHTC program is the nation's main
financing tool for building affordable housing, but it is not
limited to seniors housing. It is called on to finance family,
special-needs, and other housing communities.
In 2010, states allocated an average of about 26 percent of
their tax credits to seniors housing, according to the National
Council of State Housing Agencies' latest
In August, Congressman Joe Baca from California introduced H.R.
6295, which aims to encourage more affordable housing for seniors
through the LIHTC program. The bill calls on states to award
additional points to developments serving moderate-income
Even with a sizable LIHTC award, developments almost always have
a funding gap. Key sources of funding that have been used to fill
that hole have been recently eliminated or reduced, including
California's local redevelopment agencies and
the federal HOME program, Joseph says.
The services component
With the growing number of seniors, decreased retirement
savings, and spiraling health care costs, some in the affordable
housing industry are developing solutions to house this population
and give them a better quality of life.
Providing a host of supportive services for seniors is key in
keeping residents healthy longer and monitoring the needs they
“One of the things that we tell people who
are getting into seniors housing, it's not just
bricks and mortar anymore,” says Larry Minnix,
president and CEO of LeadingAge, a trade association for nonprofit
seniors housing and nursing care providers. “If
you're not considering the inclusion of a
package of services, then you're shortsighted in
LeadingAge is working with a host of organizations to identify
best practices in seniors housing with supportive services.
“We believe that special attention given to
low-income vulnerable seniors has a payoff for every community. We
believe it has a payoff of health care cost
reductions,” Minnix says.
SAHF and LeadingAge are teaming with Enterprise Community
Partners to launch a national housing with services learning
collaborative where they'll invite several dozen
seniors housing organizations to submit applications.
“We'll take approximately 10
to be committed the next couple of years to developing seniors
services with applied research to begin to gather data for the
housing and health care policy changes that need to
occur,” says Minnix.
The organizations will meet periodically, share information among themselves between meetings, and share publicly what they're finding.
“One of the drivers is to see if supportive
housing for seniors as an alternative to long-term institutional
care is health effective and cost effective,” says
LeadingAge also announced in early August that it has teamed
with NewCourtland Foundation to provide $100,000 in grants through
its inaugural Innovations Fund for projects that address bringing
housing and services together to meet the needs of lowerincome
seniors. As part of the collabora tion, the NewCourtland Foundation
will work with LeadingAge to administer the grants, which will be
awarded in increments of up to $25,000 in the first year.
The Mercy Housing model
Providing supportive services is a priority for Denver-based
nonprofit and SAHF member Mercy Housing.
“We have a program model that says we have to
focus on service efforts that will generate positive health
outcomes for our seniors,” says Jane Graf,
Graf says there is a lot of focus on socialization to keep
residents active as well as providing access to quality food and
nutrition skills. The nonprofit is starting to put into place a
chronic disease self-management program designed by Stanford
University that helps residents stay focused on their symptoms and
treatments and is working on a fall prevention program. Many times,
falls can lead to declines in health or other highcost care for the
For affordable housing owners, it's also
important to become an aggregator of services.
“We don't want to duplicate
anything that's already available in the
community,” Graf says.
But Mercy is also creating a model to push the boundaries of
housing and health care.
“We need to keep people out of nursing homes
until the very last minute,” Graf says.
“Providing a supportivehousing environment with
certain interventions at so much less cost is one of the
Its Mission Creek Senior Community in San Francisco, which
focuses on a higher level of service need and includes an adult day
health care center by SteppingStone on site, demonstrates this. The
adult day health care center is licensed and can provide a high
level of medical support to seniors in combination with what Mercy
support staff provides.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health has partnered with
Mercy to provide housing for 50 individuals from the
city's public nursing home. The seniors pay a
share of their housing, with the health department paying a subsidy
on top of that.
Of the original 50 resident referrals, 47 stabilized and were
able to maintain out of nursing home care. The
residents' Medicaid and Medicare costs shrank by
$28,000 per year per person, amounting to $1.4 million in cost
“A very supportive environment demonstrates
what we believe is one of the many answers to the future of how
we're going to deal with an aging population who
is living longer and has health complications. We might not be
healthier, but we're going to live longer
because of modern medicine,” Graf says.
“People should be able to live in dignity until
their end of life, and we also need to do it in a fiscally
Mercy Housing is driving the independent long-term care model
and is looking for a health care plan that is willing to partner
and push the boundaries of Medicare and Medicaid to demonstrate the
cost savings and effectiveness.
“The housers are essential.
We're the foundation, and then we add to it with
our services package. Then you put the medical service delivery
piece on top of that. You've got to have all the
pieces, they're all essential to the health of
that senior. Medical care alone won't do it;
housing alone won't do it. They need to come
together,” says Graf. “With the
Affordable Care Act, we have to look at this in a new
NCR's health care approach
Columbus-based nonprofit and SAHF member NCR also continues to
push the envelope on combining housing and health care. NCR
provides a full range of seniors services, including independent
living, home care, assisted living, hospice, adult day care, and
nursing homes. It employees 3,000 people, with half on the housing
side and half on the health care side.
Dr. Mike Barber is the chief medical officer for NCR and has
been with the organization for about a year. He has been working on
what model would work best in affordable housing to produce better
outcomes and lower the costs for the residents.
NCR launched earlier this year its medical home pilot program
where an integrated person focused on primary care would be on site
in four differing service environments, including adult day health
centers, retirement centers, independent living, and a
supportivehousing project. In addition to service coordinators in
each building, who help to engage residents in programs like
chronic disease self-management and connect residences with
services such as transportation to and from the grocery store and
doctor visits, nurse practitioners will be on site. They can put in
place comprehensive care plans for residents and be available for
urgent care. The on-site team will be focused on better care,
better health, and lower costs for the residents.
“Affordable housing is a successful
intervention. If you can add to that with case management and
primary care, you'll have a home
run,” says Slemmer.
NCR also has a new development under construction called
National Church Residences Avondale in Dublin, Ohio, that is a
first for the organization. The 100-unit project for seniors 55 and
older will be the first time the nonprofit is offering adult day
health right on the campus.
“It's the first time
we're intentionally developing a community care
setting in housing,” Slemmer says.
The project, which is financed with LIHTCs and Sec. 8 funds,
will include a central community building for the adult day health
center and a doctor's office.
“We think this [type of housing and services]
will be funded in the future because it's
solving more complicated problems,” adds Slemmer.
“We know we're helping
seniors, and we hope in the process we'll
convince policymakers this is a better solution.”
Catering to the Seniors Workforce
New seniors workforce housing by Gorman & Co., Inc., will
open this month in downtown Phoenix.
“It's not your
grandmother's seniors housing
project,” says Brian Swanton, Arizona market president
of Gorman. “This project is really designed for
As the population continues to age and stay in the workforce
longer, it's important to have centrally located
housing. Lofts at McKinley, which will serve seniors 55 and older
earning 40 percent to 60 percent of the area median income, is
located less than a quarter-mile from a light rail station and is
next to the business center downtown. It's the
first new seniors development to be built in the downtown core in
years and the first project to be approved under the
city's new form-based zoning code.
Gorman partnered with Arizona Bridge to Independent Living,
which is the state's largest accessibility
service provider, to create housing that is 100 percent accessible
for the disabled. The nonprofit will provide education, employment,
and supportive services to residents with disabilities.
“This is really independent
living,” says Swanton. “But the
accessibility nature of the project allows folks who are physically
disabled to stay much longer on their own.”
There's also a clubhouse room with shared
artists' workspace, a major focal point where
the residents can congregate.
“We're looking at ways to not
just provide housing that's appropriate, but to
stimulate minds and activities in the community. Seniors are an
active, vibrant part of the community.”
Nonprofit Downtown Phoenix, which promotes economic development
in the city's core, also partnered on the $14
million project, which was financed with low-income housing tax
credit equity syndicated by Boston Capital and HOME funds from the
city and state. —C.S.
Answering the Need
The Mirabella was almost an affordable housing development for families.
Developers initially considered building a community for young couples and the general population, but instead they created 172 units of affordable housing for seniors in San Antonio.
The move was critical, satisfying nearby residents who objected to more family apartments in the neighborhood and answering the needs of the region's growing population of older residents.
The number of people 65 and older in Texas will swell by more than 3.1 million between 2000 and 2030, a 150 percent increase, projects the Census Bureau. In comparison, the state's overall population is expected to increase just 60 percent during the same period.
The San Antonio metropolitan area, which has about 235,000 seniors, has already seen its elderly population grow by about 38.5 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the Office of the State Demographer.
The $19.9 million Mirabella was developed by The NRP Group, a leading affordable housing firm, and the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA). SAHA has built four seniors communities in the last five years.
Serving low-income residents 55 years and older, the development was completed last year.
During the course of the project, “we went from the best time to the worst time in finance history,” says Dan Markson, NRP senior vice president.
The development started out when lowincome housing tax credit (LIHTC) prices were strong and all the numbers penciled out. However, by the time the developers were ready to close on their financing, the economy had crashed and the financial markets had nearly shut down. The deal had a roughly $5 million gap in its development budget.
The project managed to stay alive with a financing package that includes tax-exempt bonds and 4 percent LIHTCs. Boston Capital was the LIHTC syndicator, investing about $6 million into the project.
The sizable gap was filled through the Tax Credit Assistance Program, which was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help affordable housing developments through the financial crisis.
The Mirabella, which features solar heat and water, is the first multifamily housing complex to receive Build San Antonio Green level 1 certification, a regional green building program, says Lorraine Robles, SAHA assistant director.—D.K.
PHOTO: TARICK FOTEH
Gearing up for Aging Alaskans
Alaska is getting old fast. Its population of residents 65 years
and older grew from 35,699 in 2000 to 54,938 in 2010, a 53.9
percent increase, more than any other state.
And, there's more to come. Between 2000 and
2030, Alaska's older population is projected to
expand by a whopping 256 percent, estimates the Census Bureau.
To help meet the need for seniors housing, Cook Inlet Housing
Authority (CIHA) completed Eklutna Estates in 2010. The Anchorage
development is part of a larger seniors housing campus called
Centennial Village, where CIHA has six seniors housing developments
with a total of 367 units.
Eklutna Estates is a mixed-income community with eight
market-rate units and 51 affordable apartments for seniors earning
no more than 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median
The local market could easily absorb more units, but balancing
the state's high construction costs with
debt-carrying capability continues to be one of the biggest
challenges. Without development subsidy it is difficult to make
market-rate and affordable projects feasible, says Jeff Judd,
executive vice president of real estate at CIHA.
The approximately $22.8 million Eklutna Estates was financed
through several sources, including low-income housing tax credits,
the Tax Credit Assistance Program, the Native American Housing
Assistance and Self Determination Act, and the state Senior
Citizens Housing Development Fund.
Combining Design and Services
For Boston-based Beacon Communities, design, programs, and
amenities that improve residents' daily lives
are priorities in its seniors developments.
“For a long time, we've
been trying to figure out what we should be doing with elderly
housing,” says Pamela Goodman, director of development
at Beacon. “The people who have resources have a
lot of options ”¦ but for people who have
limited resources, they have very few options.”
As Beacon got more interested in seniors housing, the
development team created its Living Well by Design philosophy,
which it's incorporating into new construction
and into its existing portfolio. This philosophy focuses on
universally accessible design and social and supportive services,
tailored to each specific property's
“It means really integrating the physical
with the programmatic,” says Goodman.
“It's really the first in the
health care chain. The longer you can keep people independent in
their own homes, it's better for them and better
Special attention is given to functional room layouts, flooring,
lighting, and bathrooms.
“We've moved toward more
showers than bathtubs,” says Goodman.
“We've really tried to figure
out what we think this population needs in order to make it easier
on them to live in their apartments, especially as they
The developer used this Living Well by Design philosophy in its
Ocean Shores Apartments, which is a 55 and older community in
Marshfield, Mass., that was completed in early 2011.
The building is universally accessible to help residents age in
place, and 5 percent of the units are fully accessible to those
with disabilities. All of the units are fully adaptable.
Comprehensive surveys are done at each property to understand
residents' needs. At Ocean Shores, residents are
taking advantage of computer training, social activities like
barbecues and line dancing, and the new community gardens in raised
beds that were installed in August. On the health side, a visiting
nurse comes once a month in the summer and every other week the
rest of the year. —C.S.