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Votes

County Offers Affordable Housing for Seniors

Mary Cox, a six-year resident of the Little River Glen senior housing center, admitted to feeling independent, active and secure.

“I like the way the place is run,” said Cox, who works part-time as an usher at George Mason University and weekends as a paid facility attendant at Little River Glen. “I like the service that we get as far as maintenance and I like the fact that I’m not living around a lot of children.”

When 93-year-old Edith Passamaneck moved to Little River Glen in 1990, she thought that she would be the center’s oldest resident. “I came pretty close to being that,” she said. “But I’m very glad that I came.”

“I like the staff, but don’t tell them that,” Passamaneck said, with a laugh. “To me, they’re like a second family. The way they keep the place and the way they try to please. It’s not easy to please old people.”

Located near the intersection of Little River Turnpike and Olley Lane in Fairfax, Little River Glen is one of five senior housing facilities that are owned, operated or managed by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Sometimes, when people look at retirement communities there’s a misconception that these people are tucked away,” said Greg Hoffman, the housing manager at Little River Glen. “We look at this as any apartment complex. People can come and go and live their lives as they’ve always lived them. What we try to do here is provide services and security to a certain aged population that they don’t feel like they’d get through other apartment complexes.”

Little River Glen is one of five senior housing facilities owned, managed or operated by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The four other centers are the Lincolnia Residences, the Lewinsville Residences, Morris Glen and Herndon Harbor House.

“Little River Glen is really our prototype of the rest of the senior housing that we’ve developed,” said Sharron Dreyer, the director of senior housing and services branch of the HCD. “We like the residents to feel that not only is their apartment their home, but the building they live in is their home as well. Each building has a homelike environment in that when you walk in the front door there’s a more formal parlor with couches, overstuffed chairs, bookcases and so forth. There’s a family room and a nice kitchen where families can gather for mom’s 75th birthday or residents can gather for a potluck supper.”

<mh>County Housing Options

<bt>Dreyer described the 11-year-old Lincolnia Residences as the most diverse of the HCD’s five senior facilities. “It’s unique in that we have four programs,” she said. “We have an adult daycare program, a senior center, an assisted living floor and an independent living floor. It offers services from other county agencies all under one roof.”

The residential portion of the Lincolnia center was designed to serve low-income independent seniors and seniors in the assisted-living program. Lincolnia offers the only assisted-living program managed by Fairfax County and the only affordable assisted-living option available in the county.

Serving low-income seniors, Lewinsville Residences offers such amenities as dining area, a living room and the option of an evening meal. On the second floor of the converted Fairfax County school building are 21 efficiencies and one one-bedroom apartment.

“In the same building is a senior center,” said Dreyer. “So, if [residents] choose to, they can go downstairs to the senior center for a noontime meal program and participate in any other senior activities that they’d like.”

Located in the Kingstown-Manchester Lakes portion of the county, the Morris Glen offers 60 one-bedroom apartments with a small senior center. “That’s our first tax-credit property,” said Dreyer. “That means that financing for the property comes from tax-credit investors. The IRS determines the income requirements of those who live there. It serves moderate-income folks.”

Herndon Harbor House is another tax-credit property, offering 120 units and an adult day-care center.

“In the spring, we hope to begin construction of a large senior center out there,” said Dreyer. “That will be similar to the campus concept of Little River Glen.”

The FHD is also in the process of building a new 60-unit Gum Springs Glen off of Route 1, south of the Beltway. When that facility is completed, it will offer housing for moderate-income seniors.

<mh>Availability

<bt>Since private developers are able to access the same tax credit dollars as the county, many developers have found it profitable to build senior housing centers for moderate-income seniors.

“There’s probably less pent-up demand for that income segment,” said Dreyer. “The lower income is always a challenge because you’ve not only got to find money to build the buildings but, depending on the rent you collect, you also have debt-service to pay off and operating costs.”

Dreyer admitted that the ongoing challenge for affordable housing providers was to find money for new construction as well as to subsidize existing facilities in order to keep rents low. “That’s a challenge that I hope people other than the county or the government try and help us crack,” she said. “It’s a difficult issue.”

To qualify for HCD senior housing, a person needs to be at least 62 years old and a Fairfax County resident. Although financial requirements vary from center to center, a single resident needs to have an annual gross income between $6,160 and $41,300.

Dreyer admitted that demand for all of the facilities remains high, estimating that approximately 120 people were on waiting lists at Little River Glen and Lincolnia.

“To say that everybody on the waiting list for each individual property is actually going to be housed there, that probably doesn’t happen,” said Dreyer. “People get on the waiting list while they’re exploring their options.”