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A Victory for Seniors

Victory Terrace Housing opens on Newbridge Road.

Dorothy Durek is a transplant. Like many in the Washington region, she originally comes from someplace else, and is a bit intimidated by driving on the Beltway. But she does enjoy living in Potomac. “I like the location,” she said.

Durek is one of the first residents to move into the Victory Terrace complex since the facility opened on Newbridge Drive on Feb. 8. Of 72 one- and two-bedroom units in the building, about half are rented out.

The building caters to seniors who normally would not be able to afford to live in the area – only 14 of the units are rented out at market rate. The rest are reserved for people who make 60 percent or below of the area median, and of those 14 are reserved for residents making below 40 percent.

Residents must be at least 62 to live in the building. However, residents who need live-in help can have it, even if the live-in violates the age limit.

“Anything that makes a person independent,” said Kathleen Parker, district manager for Habitat America which operates the site. “Even if they have to have a person come in and assist them once in a while.”

The project was built on 16 acres donated to Victory Housing by the county. “Doug Duncan has always been very, very supportive,” said James Brown, president of Victory Housing, a non-profit arm of the archdiocese of Washington, DC.

The project was built, in part, to assist with the county’s lack of senior housing. “My brother and his wife are looking for a one-story,” Durek said. Her brother currently lives in a four-story townhouse off River Road. “They have had problems finding housing,” she said.

Of the five residents interviewed for this story, three were from out-of-state and the other two moved to the building from other parts of Montgomery County.

Victory Housing is able to operate through a combination of financing options and subsidies from various levels of government. “The subsidy is really grants and below-market financing,” Brown said. “It often takes multiple layers.”

“It’s hard to be on a fixed income and find anything,” said Ann Babula just in from Hunterdon County, N.J. Even in the part of New Jersey she was from, where the cost of housing is lower than that in the Washington region, Babula said it was difficult to find a place which is suitable for people on fixed incomes.

Durek and Babula rented their apartments without even seeing one, just the floorplans. “I was looking at many places,” said Mary Holmberg, who moved to Victory from Centreville, Va. Holmberg did see an apartment before renting.

“It’s great to find affordable housing,” Durek said. Durek came to live in the building from western Pennsylvania to be nearer to family, which is a reason that several of the residents cite for living there. “I have nobody back there,” Durek said.

Others in the building just wanted something newer. Lee Rosenthal and her husband moved from an apartment near Democracy Boulevard. “The location is really beautiful,” she said. Rosenthal prefers the quieter section of Potomac where she now lives, “Away from the hustle and bustle.”

Another positive feature for these residents is that the units are rentals. “In most places you have to buy in,” said Anne Wilson, who moved to Victory Terrace from Olney. They are free to leave whenever they like.

They also enjoy the turnkey lifestyle of apartment living. “You don’t have to worry about maintenance,” Rosenthal said.

“I sold the family home,” Durek said. “I don’t want any of it anymore.”

“It’s like going into a hotel, it’s all so new and beautiful,” said Babula. Her sister will soon be moving to the building from Gaithersburg. She also enjoys the Potomac area. “It’s one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen,” she said.

The complex features several on-site amenities, such as an exercise room, wellness center and beauty parlor, in addition to several community rooms and a chapel. “Residents have an option of combining in-house activities with outside activities,” Parker said.

The building is served by a shuttle bus which also services three other Victory Housing complexes. The bus offers rides to shopping and entertainment – last week it made a trip to the Kennedy Center. The residents interviewed for this story said they like having access to the bus, but they also have their own cars, and plan to keep them. Each of them expressed that they like to maintain the freedom that comes with personal transportation.

Besides being near their families, the residents seem to enjoy being with each other. “I think everybody watches out for everybody,” Babula said.

“We’re going to be one, big happy family,” said Durek.

At the table, there is a freshman-dorm feel, all of them getting accustomed to each other and a little bit hesitant, but still friendly, and talking about the “new kid” moving in soon. “On the third floor, a man is coming from Switzerland,” Durek said. “Supposedly, he’s an opera singer.”