Senior rental market surging Aging population will increase demand for apartment living

'The market is enormous'

Middle-class elderly will require services, have limited incomes

November 23, 1997|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

It was certainly symbolic to those who gathered at last week's Senior Housing Conference. They couldn't help but notice the final touches that were being put on a new assisted-living facility that sits just beyond the winding drive of the Grey Rock Mansion in Pikesville, where the all-day event was held.

The facility was a subtle reminder to the approximately 75 people who attended the conference sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Maryland that as 2000 approaches, one of the strongest demographic waves to emerge will be the senior housing market.

And it has gotten the attention of people such as Mel Herzberger, president of the Apartment Builders and Owners Council of HBAM.

"Baltimore has an excellent opportunity to capitalize on a brand-new housing market," said Herzberger, who also is president of American Property Management, a consulting firm to apartment developers and managers.

"I went to my first seminar on this subject matter 10 years ago," Herzberger said. "I thought that everybody retired and went to Florida or Arizona. I was surprised to learn that when those people retire, they spend their senior years within 15 miles of where they raised their family. Most people stay around their family."

With that in mind, Herzberger said, developers and managers in the Baltimore area must recognize that existing apartment developments need to be updated if they are going attract seniors.

"Most of the apartment managers' stock property was built in the '60s and '70s for the baby-boomer generation as their first housing," Herzberger said. "That is primarily the apartment housing stock in the metropolitan Baltimore area.

"And now you're finding that same generation is approaching the time in their life when they no longer want the rigors and problems associated with homeownership and may be coming back to the rental market. The question is: Does that product that was built in the 1960s meet the needs of the people coming back into the rental market in the year 2000?"

That's the question Herzberger is trying to answer.

"Issues that have not been part of the marketing strategy for multifamily units in the past will certainly be part of it over the next 10 years if [developers] want to stay competitive in this marketplace," he said. "Because our population, especially in Baltimore County, is aging so rapidly, if [seniors] are going to stay in that 15-mile radius, then it's time to look again at some of these older neighborhoods and encourage local government to be part of that process."

According to the Maryland Office of Planning and Development's population projections, the rise in the over-60 segment of the population from 1997 to the year 2010 is formidable.

The over-60 population projections by jurisdiction:

* Anne Arundel: from 62,586 to 90,398, a 44.4 percent increase.

* Baltimore County: 137,965 to 162,371, a 17.7 percent increase.

L * Carroll County: 19,957 to 32,963, a 65.2 percent increase.

L * Harford County: 27,625 to 44,822, a 62.3 percent increase.

* Howard County: 22,638 to 46,637, a 106 percent increase.

Only Baltimore shows a projected decline in senior population, from 116,237 to 110,812, a drop of 4.7 percent.

Paul Marks, one of the conference's speakers and a principal at Marks, Thomas & Associates Inc., has had his firm at the forefront of designing and planning housing facilities for the elderly for the past decade.

Among some of its projects have been the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, Oak Crest Village in Parkville, Parkview at Fullerton Apartments for the Elderly and the Timothy House Apartments for the Elderly in Towson.

Marks stressed that developing senior housing should not be limited to just developing and building a facility; it should encompass the entire lifestyle.

"A big aspect of the whole aging thing is that people go from independence to having some significant needs very quickly," Marks said.

"And generally, people talk about aging in place, and of course the ideal is to keep people in an independent setting as long as you can by delivering home health care and whatever services they need." he explained.

"So the delivery of services is really a bigger problem than the real estate problem usually. That's one thing that I will stress to homebuilders who are used to building a product and selling and going down the street and building another."

But any talk of senior housing always involves cost, and Marks identified the middle class as being the one economic group that will be challenged the most in finding affordable senior housing.

"It's the middle class who will have difficulty finding options," he said. "And anybody who can deliver that service package and appropriate housing in that middle range will be very successful because the market is enormous.

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