Thursday, November 29 2012

New Housing for Seniors

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Forty-nine low-income seniors, including 30 of whom were homeless and living with a mental illness, now have safe, permanent homes thanks to the recent completion of NoHo Senior Villas, located in the heart of the NoHo Arts District. Marking the formal opening today (Nov. 29), co-developers Clifford Beers Housing and PATH Ventures celebrated the occasion with Los Angeles City Council member Paul Krekorian, as well as representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, the City of Los Angeles Housing Department and the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee.

NoHo Senior Villas is one of the last projects in the state of California to be developed with assistance from the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. “Our most effective tool to prevent homelessness and to empower and enrich the lives of seniors struggling with mental illness and other challenges is permanent supportive housing that brings together effective services and a comfortable place to live, such as NoHo Senior Villas,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian. “Due to the recession, many seniors, low-income families and people living with disabilities have lost their homes,” added Jim Bonar, executive director of Clifford Beers Housing (CBH), the non-profit co-developer of the community. “The abolition of community redevelopment agencies throughout the state will mean that there will be fewer projects built to house those most vulnerable, when we need to be building more supportive housing.”

Co-developer PATH Ventures directs the community’s supportive services, focusing on connecting residents to the full range of supportive services they need to gain increased independence and remain stably housed. Those services include case management, referrals to health and dental care, mental health care, employment services, life skills workshops, substance abuse treatment, and self help groups, among others. Services are customized to meet to residents’ needs, and are continually evaluated and adapted to reflect the changing needs of the tenant population.

“NoHo Senior Villas addresses the desperate need for affordable housing for low-income, homeless seniors living with mental illness in our community. It’s a travesty that so many of our elderly neighbors live in poverty, and we are proud to play a role in this development,” said John Molloy, Executive Director of PATH Ventures. A case in point: 60-year-old Deborrah Rogers, who has been homeless off and on since escaping an abusive relationship. “When I first moved in, there was a lot of anxiety because I’d been homeless so long,” said Rogers. “But sitting on my bed and looking down at the traffic going by on Lankershim, I’m just overwhelmed. I never expected to get a place of this caliber. I’m pinching myself to make sure it’s true.”

Designed by Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA), the five-story, 49-unit project was specifically created to provide a supportive environment for a special needs population, including those living with physical and mental disabilities.“The project includes many elements meant to help seniors feel at home–features such as intricate metal gates, warm colors, wood benches, and abundant landscaping,” said architect Wade Killefer, whose firm has designed more than 4,000 units of low-income special needs housing. The $16 million project is also distinguished by extensive recreational amenities designed to promote a sense of community among residents. Among highlights: a rooftop garden, a landscaped front-yard with a 30-foot setback from the street, a central courtyard with a water feature, a large shade tree, and a community room that is also available for neighborhood civic forums. Additionally, added Killefer, the community focuses on wayfinding for its senior residents, with varying color schemes to identify different floors, units, and building elements. Each unit is approximately 525 square feet, and includes a private kitchen and bathroom. The project was built to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes Platinum standards.

Addressing the outlook for California’s low-income and supportive housing situation, Bonar said, “The most promising solution is the emerging Homes and Job Act.” Besides creating about 29,000 jobs annually through public-private partnerships, he said that the Act is expected to generate millions in additional state and local revenue. It also will leverage an additional $2.78 billion in federal, local and private funding.