Affordable housing for elderly hard to find
Dorothy Andrews is ready to move back to her hometown.
"The first of February I'll be here again," said Andrews who three years ago moved to a senior citizen housing area in Atchison. "I know Tonganoxie has changed a lot, but it's still home."
Fortunately for Andrews, her eagerness to move coincided with a vacancy at Pleasant Village Apartments, a 20-year-old Tonganoxie housing project.
At Pleasant Village, residents look out for each other, said Georgette Shoemaker, site manager.
"If people see somebody's curtains aren't open or something is outside their normal routine, somebody is checking," Shoemaker said. "Before I get here, somebody's checking."
Pleasant Village, an apartment complex for low- to moderate-income levels for the elderly and disabled, has 12 units and a waiting list.
"It took me two years to get in," said Aliene Brunner, who moved here from Manhattan to be close to her daughter.
Marguerite Hahn, a resident who is 92 and "working on 93," noted a recent story in The Mirror about a planned senior citizen residential area in which individual units would be sold at prices starting at $80,000.
"The recent article in the paper about housing for the elderly is far too expensive," Marguerite said.
"It's wonderful to hear about the new developments going in," Shoemaker said. "But the majority of the seniors don't have those funds. They're living off their Social Security payments and they're very limited."
At Pleasant Village, as well as at similar projects in Basehor and McLouth, rent is paid on a sliding scale, depending on the tenant's income.
Shoemaker said it's heartbreaking to have to turn people away when they want to move into Pleasant Village.
"I've got a waiting list as long as my arm," Shoemaker said. "But there are not enough apartments. The sad part about it is that these folks are on limited incomes. These are the guys who have paved the way for the way we're living today, who made improvements in this town, voted and worked hard for what we have today in this community. These people should be treated like kings and queens."
Iris Dysart, resident manager of Basehor's Hickory Villa, a 16-unit senior citizen housing project built 20 years ago, expressed similar sentiment.
"We always have a waiting list," Dysart said. "We're always full and we always have a waiting list."
Many of the residents come from out of town so that they can live near their grown children, Dysart said.
The not-for-profit Basehor project was started by Albert Mussett, Dysart said.
"He gave four acres off the corner of his farm for this place to be built," she said.
Mussett managed the property from 1983 until his death two years ago at age 92, Dysart said.
"He really took very good care of this place, it's just a very nice place, they keep it up, it's safe and it's affordable and very comfortable," Dysart said.
Once moved in, residents tend to stay at Hickory Villa through the rest of their lives.
"Some of these people have been here practically the whole 20 years," said Dysart. "That tells you something about the villa and the management because nobody moves out of here."
Mary Kay Bachmann-Dowd, manager of McLouth's New Place 1, said the 27-year-old housing project does have a few vacancies.
Like similar areas in Tonganoxie and McLouth, residents at the 12-unit complex tend to be long-timers.
"Generally when one of my tenants moves in they don't leave until they pass away or need to go to a nursing home," said Bachmann-Dowd.
Although technically the project is a for-project facility, Bachmann-Dowd said in reality, it's not.
"Mine supposedly is for-profit," she said. "But there is no profit. There's no money left. Our expenses are huge."
The project was built and originally managed by Bachmann-Dowd's first husband, Mark Bachman.
"It was one of the very first properties in the state to be built under this program," said Bachmann-Dowd, who has managed the property for 15 years.
Bachmann-Dowd said the housing project is a boon to the elderly.
"The program itself is by far one of the best programs the federal government offers to seniors," Bachmann-Dowd said. "Because I get a check for $500 to $600 a month for that property that takes care of 11 people.
Rent payments are based on incomes, she said. Some tenants pay the full amount of rent out of pocket. Others are subsidized by the federal government.
"I had a tenant who would pay $9, and I had another who would pay $17 and the government would subsidize the rest," Bachmann-Dowd said. "It's an amazing program."
New Place 1 starts at two rent standards, with the lowest rent set at $273 and the highest at $374. Tenants pay rent that is equivalent to 30 percent of their net income after medical expenses.
Bachmann-Dowd used the example of a tenant who has a $400 monthly income and has $100 in medical expenses.
"Your net income after medical expenses would be $300, and 30 percent of $300 would be $90," Bachmann-Dowd said. "To make up the difference between the $90 and the $273, I get a check from the government which we call deep subsidy."
Until recently, the McLouth project only was approved for government subsidies on nine of the 12 units. But now all the units have now been approved for the subsidy program.
Easier for the kids
Dorothy Andrews, the soon-to-be new resident at Tonganoxie's Pleasant Village Apartments, said she had considered 13 years ago buying a house, but decided instead on renting.
She said while it's good that developers in the area are focusing on building purchasable duplex-type units for senior citizens, she would prefer to rent.
"I think they're going the wrong way when they're building the ones that you buy into," Andrews said.
Her reasoning, she said is that if she rents instead of buys, it will mean less work for her children to do when she dies.
"Most older people don't want to buy into something," Andrews said. "The way I've always lived, I try to make it easy for my kids when I'm gone."