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New senior housing opens in Durham

JUNE 18, 2010 – When the economy slipped into recession and the bottom fell out of the housing market, many CDCs found themselves searching for ways to stay relevant in changing times. At the Initiative’s Spring Grantee Retreat on April 26 and 27, relevance and accountability were key topics of discussion. While reaching out to young people is one goal that came out of the dialogue, it is clear that addressing the needs of our seniors is equally important.

Maplewood Square
in Durham is one project designed to address those needs. Built by Durham Community Land Trustees (DCLT), in partnership with Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation and Self-Help, Maplewood Square is a 32 unit apartment building for seniors, age 55 and up. DCLT Executive Director Selina Mack said that they had no trouble documenting the demand for the project. “There is no other senior housing development in this immediate area,” said Mack. “The community said that was one of the things that they felt we needed; to allow the seniors in this area, who were aging out of their homes, to stay in their neighborhood. The neighborhood response has been very favorable, just tremendous.”

For low-income Durham residents, the apartments are an attractive choice. So attractive, in fact, that the building is 100% occupied and has a waiting list. With rents starting at just $318 and Energy Star ratings bringing in low power bills, the apartments are affordable and limited to residents at 60% or below area median income. One resident, Walter Gettier, is thrilled to have stumbled upon the property. “Out of all the listings I looked at, it was the only one that was listed for 55 and older,” said Gettier. “There were some for senior citizens or retirees, stuff like that. There’s not much out there at all for that last part of the Baby Boomers, and we’re people too. We’re getting there, we’re not retired yet, but there’s things that we need.”

Gettier’s job as a package handler in Research Triangle Park drew him and his wife, Iva, 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. The demands of his job also brought to light another important feature of Maplewood Square – the key card secured entry and security cameras.

“I work nights and early morning hours,” said Gettier, “and with the security here, the way this building is put together and the security that the building has, 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 ok at night time. And I believe she is.”

Iva agreed that she feels safe in their new home. “It makes a big difference,” she said. “And I love it. I do love it here.”

In addition to these security features, the building offers a number of safety features fora residents, including large bathrooms that are handicap accessible, emergency pull-cords, and sprinklers in every room.

Property Manager Carol Diggs says that the residents love life at Maplewood Square. “They feel like they are on vacation, is what I have been told. They have a lot of wisdom and knowledge that they share with me! We are a blessing to each other. I inspire their youthful side, and they inspire me with wisdom.”

The project also included the construction of an adjacent City Park and playground for the children in the neighborhood, which Mack hopes will inspire engagement between the children and the seniors. “We’re planning a community day on the 28th of June, where we’ll bring the children together with the seniors,” said Mack. “The park is just the right size for the neighborhood. Part of our National Make a Difference Day project was to recruit over 100 volunteers to construct the park in one day.” Make a Difference Day is a national day of people helping people, and is held the last Saturday of October.