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Population growth spurs Cedar Rapids senior housing development boom

Cindy Lynch (left), Life Enrichment Coordinator, massages Laurine Sueppel’s hand during a morning hand massage session at Emery Place in Robins on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. Emery Place opened in 2015 and underwent an expansion to add more assisted living apartments the following year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Cindy Lynch (left), Life Enrichment Coordinator, massages Laurine Sueppel’s hand during a morning hand massage session at Emery Place in Robins on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. Emery Place opened in 2015 and underwent an expansion to add more assisted living apartments the following year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids metro area is seeing one of the biggest booms in senior housing construction in its history.

That’s what Scott Olson, a commercial broker with Skogman Realty and a city council member, sees in the recent developments in the area, which has seen a sharp uptick in construction for senior housing units for independent living, skilled nursing, memory care and assisted-living facilities in the area.

“We’ve never, ever had anywhere close to this number of units, the variety of units, locations throughout the metro area under construction at one time. It’s amazing,” Olson said.

While Olson accredits it to a change in mind-set for a continually swelling elder population, some not-for-profit officials are pointing to a divide in housing opportunities for this demographic, including those individuals who struggle to find affordable options.

“All these units under construction will fill that gap,” Olson said. “A lot of these are not like these small, independent nursing homes.”

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Seven projects currently are under construction or recently completed in the Cedar Rapids area, which does not include the three developments that recently were announced to begin construction later this year.

These projects range from an 18-unit large apartment complex at Meth-Wick Community to the Grand Living at Indian Creek, a 164-unit for independent, assisted and memory care with a $32 million price tag.

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Emery Place Assisted Living and Memory Care opened in Robins in 2015, but it expanded its facility the following year after officials decided more need still existed.

Olson, who serves on the Meth-Wick Community board of directors, said these developments are different from the traditional nursing home model.

But what’s becoming popular are complexes that offer it all. A resident can start out in an independent living situation that provides the amenities desired in a community — a coffee shop, a library — and still be guaranteed a spot in the complex’s care-based facilities in the future.

“It’s just a whole different style of care,” Olson said. “We’re seeing a lot more upscale stuff.

“The older facilities need to remain competitive — and the way they remain competitive is that their prices are much lower in the older, more traditional nursing homes. Their pricing is a lot less, but if people can afford it, they’re going to these new facilities that offer all these different levels of care.”

INCREASE IN REFERRALS

Nationwide, the older population — which is expected to double its current size by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — is underserved in the housing market.

According to LeadingAge, an association of not-for-profit aging services providers, due to this growth the senior living market will have to “triple in size to meet the anticipated demand for residential options.”

And that includes affordable options. The Heritage Area Agency on Aging, an aging services not-for-profit, has seen an increase in the number of housing referrals on its LifeLong Links program for service and information referral.

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Eugenia Kendall, Heritage’s LifeLong Links senior manager, said housing referrals increased 32 percent — from 290 referrals in fiscal year 2017 to 382 in fiscal year 2018.

• Assisted-living facility referrals increased 62 percent from 73 referrals in 2017 to 118 in 2018.

• Subsidized rental housing referrals increased 28 percent from 108 referrals in 2017 to 138 in 2018.

• Nursing home referrals has remained relatively the same at 74 referrals in 2017 and 79 in 2018.

• Residential care facility referrals have decreased 44 percent, from 18 referrals in 2017 to 11 referrals in 2018.

“We are happy to see an increase in affordable, community supported living options within our service area,” Kendall said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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