Elaine Watson, 65, spent three years searching for an apartment complex that catered to the special housing needs of senior citizens.
In August, her search ended at Woodsdale Senior Housing, a planned community of 130 apartments designed and built specifically for senior citizens. The project is located on Woodsdale Road near Constant Friendship.
"I don't have drugs here, or alcoholics, or older teen-agers whose parents don't care what they're doing," said Watson, who previouslylived in Dundalk.
Watson is one of the 36 tenants who have moved into the complex, which began accepting tenants July 1 and held a grand opening ceremony Friday. Rents at Woodsdale are geared to those with low and fixed incomes. The rents for the units -- all one-bedroom apartments with 625 square feet -- start at a minimum of $425 and areadjusted upward based on the income of the renter.
The minimum rent would be charged to a tenant receiving an annual income of $17,000a year For a household with a combined income of $19,450, rent wouldbe $486. Utilities are included in the rent.
Mark Carroll, supervisor of outreach for the Harford County Office of the Aging, said theproject is filling a big need in the county's senior housing market.
Only one other apartment community in the county, Friendship Village, offers seniors rents based on their incomes. Aside from that there are five apartment complexes that accept subsidized housing payments.
Friendship Village, located in Abingdon, has 32 units for handicapped and elderly residents.
But with 22,000 senior citizens in the county, there usually is a waiting list to get apartments in all of the communities accepting government subsidized payments, Carroll said. For instance, at the Graw Apartments in Havre de Grace, an applicant could wait up to five years to get housing, he said.
Watson experienced the shortage of homes for middle- to lower-income elderlycitizens during her search. In Dundalk she found many of the senior citizen apartment buildings to be high rises that had waiting lists in excess of a year.
Today, she has a home she enjoys a great deal,she says, thanks to the design features that take seniors' needs into account.
Built by Hess Development Associates of Aberdeen, all of the Woodsdale apartments are on the ground floor so that tenants don't have to climb stairs. Ramps are in place so that tenants in wheelchairs or with walkers can get around easily. Additionally, the apartments include larger than average bathrooms to make it easier for senior citizens to move around. The apartments have fire sprinkler systems and the required smoke detectors.
Judith A. Plummer, administrative assistant for Hess Associates, said 12 of the units are designedfor handicapped citizens and offer specially designed bathrooms and kitchens that can be altered for a tenant's personal needs. They include special kitchen cabinets with handles that are easy for someone in a wheelchair to reach and also have wall handles in the bathroom and spaces located beneath sinks so that tenants can roll a wheelchair around appliances easily.
Another feature planned at Woodsdale is a community center where bingo and other activities for the residentswill be held.
Construction on the development began 1 1/2 years ago, after the company obtained a matching loan with the state Community Development Administration, Plummer said. Hess Development put in $1.5 million for the project and the state provided $4.5 million in loans at an 8 1/4 percent interest rate over a 40-year period.
Plummer said Woodsdale Senior Housing may start producing a profit "many years down the road." She said loan guidelines mandate that 78 of theunits must be rented to tenants whose incomes allow them to afford $486 per month in rent, plus utilities.
Plummer expects the projectto be filled by April.
Rebecca Wurzhacher, 82, is a new Woodsdaleresident.
"It's all new. I feel like a bride," she said.
Wurzhacher used to live in an apartment building in Forest Hills, but the rent kept climbing, reaching $470 a month, not including utilities. Rent was scheduled to go up to $500 a month, which she said would havebeen difficult to handle on her fixed income.
For Anne L. Gentry,69, who moved in Sept. 1, Woodsdale is a godsend. She had been living in a trailer home in Aberdeen but had been looking for a new home she could afford on her income since her husband died.
"This is what I've been looking for," she said.