Apartments lure middle-income senior crowd Park View at Fullerton rents 55 of 90 units sight unseen

March 10, 1996|By Daniel H. Barkin | Daniel H. Barkin,SUN STAFF

The little red dots on the blueprints on Barbara Truszkowski's leasing trailer wall tell the story.

Ms. Truszkowski is property manager of Park View at Fullerton, a new apartment complex for the elderly, located just northeast of the city a few blocks inside the Beltway.

Of the 90 units, some 55 have been claimed by prospective tenants, sight unseen. These are the apartments designated by the red dots.

The rest are expected to go fast -- if recent trends are any guide -- particularly after today's 2 p.m.-4 p.m. open house. Such is the demand in the Baltimore region for affordable housing for the burgeoning numbers of middle-income seniors.

About 14 percent of the more than 1.4 million residents of Baltimore and Baltimore County are in their mid-60s or older, according to census figures, well above the percentages in the metro area's outer counties.

Only 6.1 percent of the residents in Howard County, 8.3 percent in Harford and 8.8 percent in Anne Arundel are 65 and up.

The below-market rents of complexes such as Park View at Fullerton have made them highly desirable to seniors inside the Baltimore Beltway who want to live independently in and near the communities where they have worked and raised families. Most of the units will rent for around $428 per month.

"That's very inexpensive," observed George Genung of the National Association of Home Builders' senior housing council.

"It's a very hot niche," said Patrick Duffy, vice president of marketing for Shelter Properties LLC, the management subsidiary of the developer, the Baltimore-based Shelter Group. Shelter Properties manages about 8,900 units in 40 projects throughout the United States.

Shelter has become one of the largest developers of middle-income apartments for the elderly in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, using low-cost financing provided by local, state and federal governments.

One of the keys to its financing has been cash provided by the sale of federal tax credits to private corporations. Each state gets an allocation of these tax credits, for which affordable housing developers compete to use in their projects.

Without the tax credit financing, as well as loans provided by Baltimore County and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, rents of $800 to $900 a month would be required, said Jeff Hettleman, project manager for Shelter.

At $428 a month, the one-bedroom units -- which average 650 square feet -- are frequently cheaper than the apartments where elderly renters are now living, according to Mr. Duffy.

There are restrictions, however.

To live at Park View at Fullerton, at least one of the apartment's renters must be 62 or older. Income cannot exceed $20,750 for an individual or $23,700 for a couple -- 60 percent of the Baltimore County median household income.

Most of the tenants will be paying their rent out of Social Security and small pension income, according to Mr. Duffy.

It's a segment, Mr. Duffy said, that has too much income to qualify for many rental-subsidy programs, but is not sufficiently affluent to afford market rents.

So these are people with somewhat limited options. "They're living in older, unrenovated apartments. They have to walk up three flights of stairs. There's not an emergency pull-cord in the bathroom," he noted.

Most of the tenants who are scheduled to start moving into the Fullerton complex later this month are from the surrounding communities, according to Ms. Truszkowski.

"This trailer opened on the 26th of January. All this has happened since the 26th of January," she said, indicating the red dots.

The location of the complex in Fullerton was no accident. Studies conducted by Shelter show that 23 percent of the population within a three-mile radius is over 55. The median household income of residents 65 to 74 is around $23,400.

Since 1989, Shelter has developed nine apartment complexes in the Baltimore-Washington corridor targeted toward the middle-income elderly.

In addition to Park View at Fullerton, these are: Carriage Run in Columbia, which opened in 1994 with 104 units; Park Caton, Catonsville, 1991, 101 units; Park Chesaco, Rosedale, 1994, 109 units; Park Terrace, Dundalk, 1989, 101 units; Park View, Laurel, 1994, 153 units; Randallstown Terrace, Randallstown, 1994, 103 units; Timothy House, Towson, 1990, 112 units; and the Willows, Bladensburg, 1994, 102 units.

The Randallstown complex opened in February 1994 and was fully leased in two months, according to Mr. Duffy. Shelter is 0currently finishing Colonial Landing in Elkridge, with 100 units. The leasing office hasn't opened yet, Mr. Duffy said, but nearly 100 applications have been received.

"It's a market that's not served," he said.

The units at Park View at Fullerton include kitchens, individually controlled heating and air conditioning, wall-to-wall carpeting, wiring for telephones and cable television, and an emergency pull-cord in the bedroom and bathroom.

The three-story complex has an elevator, a community room with a kitchen, an electronically controlled lobby entry system, a laundry room and landscaped grounds.

The rear of the building, which sits at the end of Cardwell Avenue, off Belair Road, backs up to a farm.

Pub Date: 3/10/96

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