Graying of suburbia Elderly housing: One of the fastest-growing segments of the local population needs more options.

November 12, 1998

AS THE GRAYING of suburbia continues, the need grows for more affordable housing choices for senior citizens. In Howard County, more than 9 percent of the population of 230,000 is older than 60. In the next 25 years that percentage is expected to grow to roughly a quarter of the population, or 73,500 residents. Their incomes will vary, and they will need a range of housing choices as a result.

As government officials and developers address the need for more affordable housing overall, they should put emphasis on the needs of retirees and others on fixed income. Seniors should be able to choose from among a variety of residential areas, but they won't be able to if the housing they can afford is concentrated in only a few spots.

Some communities have fought plans to build housing for the elderly. Much of the resistance, though, can be attributed to the type of housing proposed. In Ellicott City, for example, Columbia Pike residents have fought plans to locate a Manor House Retirement Center there. Their main complaint is that the size of the facility -- 103 beds -- would change the character of their neighborhood.

One builder of apartments for the elderly, Shelter Development, seems to have avoided similar rancor. Shelter has built apartment buildings in Columbia, Laurel and Elkridge, with another scheduled to open next year in Ellicott City.

Tax breaks and land provided by the county allow Shelter Development to charge monthly rents of $440 for a one-bedroom unit, not a lot in the Howard market. That's the type of cooperation needed to generate more affordable housing choices.

The Howard County Office on Aging is sponsoring an Assisted Living Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia. For more information, call 410-313-6410. The event will be a good opportunity to see what housing options are available for seniors now and to discuss what else will be needed in the not-too-distant future.

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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