Grand Forks senior housing in high demand; need expected to increase
“These are gorgeous. They’re built for older people,” said Lee, 73, as he watched TV in a community room at Cherrywood Village, a complex of low-income, independent-living senior apartments that opened June 23 at 3350 Cherry St.
Partly funded by state and federal grants, Cherrywood Village is just one local effort to manage the growing need for senior housing. That need is expected to increase faster in Grand Forks than the rest of the state, studies show.
Almost every senior apartment complex in Grand Forks has waiting lists, and the demand is expected to grow as the baby boomer generation ages, local experts said. Local housing developers and agencies are already preparing for that increased demand.
“The baby boomers are still aging, and they’re looking for alternatives,” said Terry Hanson, executive director of the Grand Forks Housing Authority, which manages Cherrywood Village.
One of the highest demands is for independent-living apartments, such as Cherrywood, because many seniors are still healthy enough to live on their own, but they don’t want to have to care for a whole house as they age, Hanson said.
“They need something between living in a house and moving to a nursing home,” he said.
Lee, the Cherrywood resident, agreed. “That’s where I want to be and where most elderly people want to be,” he said. “We like to be independent.”
As of May 2013, every independent-living facility in Grand Forks was at 100 percent occupancy with waiting lists, according to a report compiled by Enclave Development, which recently developed the Silver Waters senior apartments on South 16th Street in Grand Forks.
Cherrywood Village, which is low-income housing, was at full occupancy with a waiting list before it opened, Hanson said.
Austin Morris, managing partner with Enclave Development, declined to say the occupancy of Silver Waters, which opened July 1, but said 80 percent occupancy is expected within this year. Rents at Silver Waters, which are market-rate apartments, range from $1,190 to $1,500 per month, he said.
According to Enclave’s report, the demand for senior housing is growing faster in Grand Forks than in the rest of North Dakota. The number of seniors statewide is expected to increase 50 percent by 2025, but it’s expected to increase about 61 percent in Grand Forks by that year.
Those numbers only include cities’ current population and historic immigration trends, according to the report. But with many seniors leaving the Oil Patch in western North Dakota, more may end up in Grand Forks, said Jolene Kline, executive director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency, which supplied a Housing Incentive Fund grant for Cherrywood.
The Cherrywood project is the only Housing Incentive Fund application Kline has received from Grand Forks, she said, adding that she hopes to receive more applications.
While the demand for all senior housing is strong, there are fewer options in Grand Forks for low-income seniors, Hanson said.
Lee, who is living off of disability assistance and a part-time job, had trouble finding somewhere affordable and specifically designed for seniors before moving into Cherrywood. “The problem they have right now in this city is they don’t have affordable housing for the elderly,” he said.
The majority of families on assistance with the Grand Forks Housing Authority have a head of household that is either elderly or disabled, said Emily Wright, GFHA executive administrator.
If Grand Forks can solve the demand for senior housing, it could lead to a solution to the city’s housing shortage for all demographics, Hanson said.
As people of all ages and all incomes struggle with Grand Forks’ limited housing options, providing ways to move seniors out of their homes will open those older homes — which are presumably more affordable than new construction — for younger families, he said.
He and Wright both said more senior housing is the quickest solution they see to the city’s housing shortage.
Private developers, such as Enclave, will continue to build senior housing as long the demand is strong, Morris said. The company plans to add more apartments to Silver Waters as early as next fall, he said.
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