With members of the baby boomer generation at or near retirement age, demand for affordable senior housing is only going up. The Lawrence area has several options for older residents looking for a place to live that isn't cost prohibitive.
Douglas County is home to several senior living apartment complexes that offer subsidized rates to low-income residents. They are Babcock Place, Clinton Place, Edgewood, Peterson Acres I and II, Prairie Ridge Place and Vermont Towers in Lawrence; Hancuff Place and Signal Ridge Place in Baldwin City; and Hill Crest and Pine Crests I and II in Eudora. Subsidized housing through the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority usually has a waiting list of about six months to a year and a half.
However, there are fewer options for middle-income seniors who make too much to qualify for subsidized housing but not enough to afford some of the more expensive rental units in Lawrence. The Kaw Valley Older Women's League has been trying to come up with solutions to that problem. The group approached Lawrence-based Tenants to Homeowners, which recently proposed a solution: the Cedarwood Senior Cottages, a 14-unit development would be located in South Lawrence, just behind the United Way building. It would include rent-controlled one- and two-bedroom townhouses for moderate-income seniors 55 and older.
"It's amazing how much we are not ready for the demographic change we're looking at with the baby boomer generation," said Rebecca Buford, executive director of Tenants to Homeowners. "We don't have nearly enough (housing) like this now. We're just looking at the demand skyrocketing here in Lawrence."
Buford added that a development like Cedarwood Senior Cottages, which recently received approval for a zoning change, allows older residents to live around other seniors yet still in a neighborhood-like setting. The affordable rental rates (she estimates they'll be around $500 to $700 a month) will allow seniors to spend money on other activities in the community, which will only help the local economy.
Gayle Sigurdson, a member of Kaw Valley Older Women's League and services coordinator for Babcock Place Apartments in Lawrence, said she hopes Lawrence will embrace more developments like Cedarwood Senior Cottages. She said retirees who move to Lawrence from higher-cost-of-living areas often have more options when it comes to housing because they sold their houses for much more than a similar house would be worth here.
Furthermore, she said the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners is planning for future demand for subsidized housing in the community.