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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Aging Population Excites Senior Housing Developers

A host of housing options for seniors have opened up in the region, geared at every income level and ranging from independent living to skilled nursing. The demographics are tantalizing to developers. In May 2008, a Los Angeles County report stated there are currently 1.4 million seniors in the county and that number is projected to grow to 3 million by 2028. Senior living can be marketed to anyone over the age of 55, but different communities have their own age brackets. Residential facilities can be divided into basically two categories. The first are those facilities that offer some level of medical assistance, whether it’s assisted living or full skilled nursing facilities. The others are the independent living centers and active living. There’s even a hybrid called continuing care communities that incorporates all levels into one. “If you look at the numbers of seniors, whether over 65, 75 or 85, they’re living healthier lives and longer lives and they want to live more independently,” said Frank Hafner, CEO of American Senior Living. “That’s what’s driving operators and developers like ourselves into designing quality senior living options and alternatives.” While affluent seniors have generally been pitched active living environments in more remote areas, such as the Leisure Village in Camarillo, Hafner said that more and more seniors are choosing to stay in urban areas. He cites “cultural enrichment, access to services and definitely better healthcare,” as a few of the reasons. “People are very concerned about having access to the best medical care,” said Hafner. They also may want to be closer to family members and their existing social network. That’s why American Senior Living chose to build the recently-opened Monarch Village Tarzana, a stacked complex of 112 one- and two-bedroom apartments, right on Ventura Boulevard. The rental units are much more like condominiums than apartments, with full kitchens complete with granite countertops and stainless steel name-brand appliances. The monthly “rent,” includes fine dining with 30 meals per month, plus a full breakfast and Sunday brunch. Also included are housekeeping, laundry and transportation services. “We have a shuttle bus that goes to regularly scheduled trips, excursions and also shopping, and also a Town Car that you can reserve to go to the doctor or to go on trips or to a movie with friends,” adds Hafner. “Also included is a 24-hour concierge desk.” All this doesn’t come cheap. Monthly fees begin at $4,995 for one-bedroom units and up to $8,000 for a deluxe 2-bedroom. But, Hafner said, it can actually be rather affordable for a couple who presently occupies a $1 million home and has live-in help or eats out regularly. Monarch Tarzana started accepting residents in mid-November and is presently about 40 percent occupied. “We think we will be fully occupied sometime between the next six and nine months,” said Hafner. “We probably would have been filled and had a waiting list,” said Hafner, referring to the economic climate. A little more affordable On the more affordable end of senior rental housing are offerings from Newport Beach-based Vintage Senior Living. Rather than developing projects from scratch, they have purchased existing facilities from companies like Sunrise, Avalon and Renaissance. In our region, they have facilities in Encino, Simi Valley and Burbank. Vintage Encino Hills started out as a hotel 30 years ago, according to Cristina Castro, marketing director for the facility. “Fourteen years ago it was converted to assisted living,” she said. “We went through and did a about a half million dollar renovation, adding new patios, new sliders. All of the rooms have been renovated with crown moulding. We got rid of the popcorn ceilings and the shag rugs, which are not walker friendly.” This 73-room Vintage property is geared more toward assisted living and the average age of their residents is 84. As with Monarch, the monthly fees include a host of amenities like dining, laundry service and housekeeping. Vintage also offers a broad range of assistance from handling medications to hospice care. They even have a couple of rooms set aside to offer respite care, meaning that caregivers can bring their loved one to the facility for a short time while they take a much-needed break. Small studios at Vintage Encino Hills start at $2,500 per month with the larger one bedrooms renting for $3,600. They’ve been running a special to advertise the refurbished facility, said Castro, with no rent increases until 2011. “We’ve had lots of interest in that,” she said. “We have just eight to 10 more rooms left.” Hybrid option A little more than a year ago, a very upscale hybrid senior development opened in Thousand Oaks. University Village is what’s known as a continuing care retirement community. “It’s kind of a funny and complex concept,” said Warren Spieker, vice president of Continuing Life Communities, the project’s developer. “It feels like real estate, like a Del Webb or Sun City or Leisure Village, but it’s actually not,” said Spieker. Residents pay an entrance fee that averages about $400,000. In return, they get what may best be described as a long-term healthcare insurance contract and an annuity. The sprawling 65-acre complex has independent living units, an assisted living center, and a skilled nursing facility with a dedicated dementia-care unit. “We should be getting our Medicare certification shortly,” said Spieker. “We’re just waiting for the final survey.” The skilled nursing facility is already about 25 percent occupied with private-pay clients. It’s more than expected, said Spieker. “Once we’re certified, then the floodgates will open.” What most senior communities being opened these days don’t have is the skilled nursing component which he sees as a necessity. “Inevitably somebody falls or needs rehabilitation or something,” said Spieker. “For instance, we have a couple right now, where the wife is living in the skilled nursing facility and the husband is in his villa. He goes over for breakfast every day but he is still maintaining his independent lifestyle. I see him in the fitness center working out. That’s where the key difference is to our community.” The monthly fees at University Village start at just under $2,700 and cap out at about $4,000 a month and include a broad range of amenities including tennis courts, a pitch-and-put golf course, restaurant-quality dining and the like. Ownership option For those who want to continue to own their home, a new development in Simi Valley may be just the ticket. At first blush, it’s hard to tell what, exactly, makes Paseo de las Flores specifically a “senior living” complex. There is no concierge, no dining hall, no housekeeping and laundry service. But look closely, said Tim Tucker, one of the partners of Calabasas-based LT Development. “The real critical element is the design,” he said. Most urban senior projects, he maintained, are designed as stacked flat apartments. “We always felt that if seniors are moving from their home, they don’t want to move backwards in life,” said Tucker. “So we designed our units to be like small homes. In that concept there were certain elements I wouldn’t compromise on.” Things like two-car direct access garages; a yard of some size, 9-foot to 12-foot ceilings. Being an infill project, “It was difficult to design that way and exceptionally expensive to build,” said Tucker. “That’s the downside. That’s why people go with the stacked flats, because it’s expensive not to.” As far as amenities goes, the development is simple. There is a clubhouse with a kitchen and dining area that looks out over a community swimming pool. The developers are also excited about an affordable housing agreement they have just finalized with the city. Seniors that meet certain income thresholds will be able to purchase the units at about half the original sales price with the City contributing a fair share as well. These homes will be deed-restricted to ensure ongoing affordability. Staff Reporter Linda Coburn can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or at [email protected] .

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