Saturday, November 16, 2013

Senior Housing in Laveen

Firstly, we need more senior housing in the 85339. This thought occurred to me as I drove down Baseline about a week ago and saw a couple of elderly folks on their electric scooters headed to the park and ride facility at 27th Avenue. Not only was I surprised to see people using that facility, I was reminded as well that the major influx of new Laveen residents tends to be young families, so we may have to remind ourselves every once in a while to offer resources as well for our elders. Then I started doing the calculations in my head and realized that the closest senior housing facilities that I know are:

Amber Pointe (independent housing on 7th Ave. and Broadway)
Maravilla Care Center (nursing care on 7th St. and South Mountain)
Life Care Center at South Mountain (assisted living near 7th St. and Baseline)

There are a few more home-based facilities scattered around the area, mostly toward the east of Laveen (as are those three above) and some places downtown. There is a plan to bring senior/assisted living to the NWC of 51st Ave. and Baseline (you know, supposedly "farm" land, where crops all too often go to die so that the owner can keep a low tax basis on vacant land -- no offense, but that's how it appears). I would strongly support this property owner's efforts if it means bringing more activity and resources to this intersection soon. That said, I remain skeptical yet hopeful after having watched this site for the last eight-plus years sitting in waiting for a developer. Now that they are working on entitlements with the city, however, there must be hope after all.

2010 census data tells us the following about the area:

Total Population: 35,586
30-54 Population: 13,020 (36.6%)
55+ Population: 4,300 (12%)

Total Population: 54,947
30-54 Population: 18,046 (32.9%)
55+ Population: 7,556 (13.8%)

That's a total of 90,533 people in these two ZIP codes (for comparison's sake, the city of Goodyear has a total population of 65,275). Of those 90,000 residents, 11,856 (13%) are 55+ and another 31,066 (34%) are in the 30-54 age group. This means that there's a total market of almost 12,000 residents who may soon be looking at retirement options that might include senior housing, plus another  31,000 who may need nearby senior housing options for their parents in the next two decades (or themselves later).

I don't work in this industry, nor have I ever, but I did once work with some smart folks who develop senior housing throughout the country. From what I understood of their business model, this might just be an opportunity worth pursuing further based solely on the numbers. I was actually rather fascinated by their development strategy, as it aligned closely with the interests that I represented at the time (hence why we were talking) and, if done right, follows demand like clockwork -- for a lucrative business model that also serves as a valuable amenity to the communities where they build.

What about Downtown? It's Not Too Far....

Imagine my surprise when I learned from Wayne Rainey, owner of monOrchid (where I was married, btw), that he had teamed up with the already familiar Reid Butler to build an interesting mixed-use development on the city-owned site adjacent to monOrchid, but that another project appeared to be winning: a low-income senior housing project. This is in the heart of Roosevelt Row, downtown, where I'd least expect to see senior housing as a preferred development type. So of course it piqued my curiosity, and it turns out that I'm not the only one. The AZ Republic editorial board chimed in with its column, Let’s get this downtown Phoenix project right; and the Downtown Devil reported on the story as well: ECCA meeting focuses on proposals for historic Knipe House and nearby properties.

Mr. Rainey has gone on to build support against the senior housing project, by starting a petition and rallying his contacts throughout the city. I'm with him on this one and suggest that others should be as well. Aside from the fact that I'd like to see that senior housing spread out a little toward our corner of the city, here's my reasoning that I offered for supporting Rainey and Butler (and I think this is only the second time that I've actively supported Butler on something, which is a strange coincidence given that the last time was just a few weeks ago):

First, a few assumptions about senior housing:

1) Senior housing and assisted living facilities are still in demand as the baby boomer generation continues shifting toward retirement.

2) Affordable senior housing is particularly needed.

3) Ask any major senior housing developer about their strategy, and they will tell you that they generally prefer locations surrounded by and/or accessible to large residential neighborhoods that are not yet adequately served, as most people looking at such an option seek as minimal a life change as possible and want to remain near their families/friends. 

4) Affordable senior housing is easier to finance than other product types, thanks often in part to tax incentives, but also largely due to special HUD financing.

Now a few assumptions about downtown Phoenix: 

1) Part of what everyone wants (or says they want) is residential diversity downtown. 

2) Downtown Phoenix is one of the least densely populated areas of our entire metro housing market.

3) Downtown Phoenix needs more full-time residents in order to continue attracting residential amenities to the area, thus improving quality of life for current/future residents and fortifying the regional appeal for the area by breathing more life into it.

4) A vast majority of people who work and/or attend school downtown commute to the area.

And now for the basic analysis:

When exploring from a blank slate what is most needed downtown, I would recommend looking into current ratios of senior housing (particularly affordable senior housing) downtown as compared to other parts of Phoenix. Sure it will likely run a little bit higher, but this seems like a valid test of need for this targeted development type in this location and my guess is that the need will not be demonstrated by a comparative analysis.

Next, given that the city owns this site and is essentially serving as the invisible hand of the market, I'd ask what the market will most likely produce without the help of the city. My guess is that affordable senior and student housing will win this battle, thanks largely to the already available special HUD financing and back-end investment demand for these product types.

And finally, what segment remains under-served in the subject area? Sure there are the artists, but I'd also suggest that there's a sizable enough segment of the downtown workforce population that would prefer to live downtown if they had better options. What about them? Isn't it in the city's best economic interest to nudge this segment along every once in a while if it means increased competitiveness for attraction of high-wage employers? As a side benefit, it would also help reduce traffic/commuting costs elsewhere in the city.

Most of these questions/suggestions could be much better supported with data that should be gathered and analyzed, and I simply don't have the time right now. But my gut tells me that we don't need the affordable senior housing on this site and I don't think that's an unkind sentiment at all. I just don't see how the city as a whole or this neighborhood in particular benefit by concentrating so much senior housing in this particular area.

1 comment:

lipsa herry said...
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