Generational Bond: Affordable Senior Housing Helping Families Grow Old Together

By: Jeos Oreamuno AIA, ECODistricts AP™, LEED AP BD+C

Architects working on projects that include Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) for senior housing focus primarily on code requirements and building amenities. While those attributes are necessary for multi-family buildings, there are other auxiliary factors to consider: age-in-place planning and convenient access to nearby transportation. These factors are sometimes difficult to quantify but play a significant role in senior living.

An April 2019 study published by Health Affairs estimates that in 10 years, more than half of middle-income Americans aged 75 or older will not be able to afford the costs of assisted living or medical expenses. Having to make the difficult choice between adequate healthcare or housing is a serious topic facing families today. According to census data, more than 80,000 seniors live in the metro Denver area and nearly three-quarters of them are homeowners.

Organizations like The Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Metro Denver Habitat for Humanity are promoting aging-in-place services including; hospice care, wellness care, and home repairs. However, the program which makes their work possible, the Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) is in its infancy and intends to provide around 100 participants with assistance in 2019.

In order to meet the evolving needs of communities, senior housing projects that incorporate Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) offer aging residents access to public transportation which in turn encourage active living, helping to keep seniors independent and engaged in their communities. TOD planning not only benefits seniors, immediate families benefit from access to transit options that facilitate visitations bridging families that rely primarily on public transit together.

The Adams County housing authority, Unison Housing Partners, applies progressive housing solutions in the framing of multigenerational housing models. Crossing Pointe, an affordable senior/family housing project designed by Van Meter Williams Pollack is Unison’s ambitious housing concept under development in Thornton, Colorado. Conveniently located near retail stores, supermarket, commuter rail station, and the new Thornton Active Adult Center scheduled to open in 2020, Crossing Pointe provides healthy living opportunities for seniors who earn 30-60 percent of the area median income. In collaboration, Unison Housing Partners and Van Meter Williams Pollack envision a vibrant, thriving community that fosters organic interactions around the development.

Offering seniors an affordable housing choice that secures their independence by means of access to transportation options located near their surrounding neighborhood is becoming a priority for communities all across the country. Housing agencies and interest groups should advocate local policies prioritizing aging-in-place strategies that provide solutions for the imminent housing needs of our growing senior population.


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