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Working seniors find affordable community living in Durham

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MAY 10, 2010 – Walter Gettier and his wife, Iva, consider themselves fortunate. Yes, times are hard. But Walt is happy to have a job as a package handler in The Research Triangle Park.

It was the job that drew the couple to Durham from their previous apartment in Chapel Hill. Along with the long commute, rising rents and increasing fees made their home less affordable with every passing year. They needed to move but found it difficult to find safe, affordable housing for their age and income.

Then Walt found Maplewood Square, a new affordable community for seniors in Durham developed by the Durham Community Land Trustees, which receives operating financial support from the Initiative. With rents starting at just $318, the apartments are limited to seniors age 55 and up who earn 60 percent or below the area median income. It was perfect for Walt and Iva.

“It was like I was supposed to find it,” Walt said. “Out of all the listings I looked at, it was the only one that was listed for 55 and older.”

That’s the way things can work when a community organization, like Durham Community Land Trustees, receives sufficient funding, said Executive Director Selina Mack. And it a key reason the Initiative’s core operating grants are so important, she said.

The Initiative is the only organization in the country that, during the past 15 years, has provided core operating support for community development corporations. That enables the community organizations to focus their time and energy on programs and projects, such as Maplewood Square, rather than on raising money to keep the lights on.

Programs such as Maplewood would be difficult, if not impossible, without the Initiative’s support, Mack said.

“The Initiative is wonderful to work with,” she said. “They’re committed to excellence, financial accountability and, most important, the people we’re trying to help. Without the Initiative, programs like Maplewood might not be happening here in Durham or in some communities across the state.”

As for the Gettiers, Walt said: “We both smile a lot more…I feel safe leaving my wife at home, and I didn’t feel that before. That’s a big thing for me. I want to make sure she’s O.K. at night time. And I believe she is.”