Budget-conscious style: Designing senior living residences funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

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Budget-conscious style: Designing senior living residences funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Cred
Budget-conscious style: Designing senior living residences funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Cred
The housing market has yet to bounce back much from the edge of disaster and many continuing care retirement communities are feeling the pinch.

Seniors who can't sell their homes also can't afford to live in the upscale facilities many providers spent the last decade building. Simultaneously, increased emphasis is being placed on home-based healthcare and aging in place, says Ron Lloyd, president of RDL Architects.

These converging trends are changing the way senior living providers approach development. Case in point: RDL specializes in designing affordable senior housing that's financed through the Lower Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). That expertise caught the attention of Presbyterian Senior Living.  

Long a purveyor of high-end CCRCs, Presbyterian Senior Living directors sought to create quality, affordable, low-income senior housing alongside its market-rate housing, and at the same time provide the full continuum of care to its residents.

Together, the architecture firm and the senior living provider created Carroll Village, a mixed-use community in southern Pennsylvania. And with funding for the project subsidized through the LIHTC, they could realize the goal of good quality low-income housing.

Uncompromised design

“You can design without compromise if you have an unlimited budget,” says Lloyd. “Anybody can do that.”

The trick for RDL is creating low-income housing that's just as attractive as the market rate housing down the road. But it's not easy when both state and federal officials are so closely scrutinizing your funding.

“We have to follow current codes, and current codes are much more aggressive as they relate to universal designs,” Lloyd explains.

All the apartments are created with universal design features and accessibility, which means that as the resident gets older and needs assisted living or skilled nursing care, the unit can be updated accordingly. Bath and kitchen features are specially designed for adaptability.

Universal design and a focus on adaptability are important, given the direction the long-term care community model is going, Lloyd believes.

“Nursing is really becoming hospice or memory care, and assisted living is what nursing used to be and these independent facilities are turning into assisted living,” he says.

A driving force

Carroll Village recently wrapped up its first phase of construction with three large units, one LIHTC-funded and two market-rate units. The strong demand for the low-income units drove application for the other units, and also attracted commercial campuses to the new village.

Pinnacle Health System, the largest healthcare provider in the Harrisburg area, set up shop in a 46,000-square-foot office space on the Carroll Village campus. Future stages of the project will include nursing and assisted living units.