Huntington Woods Continues Exploring Senior Housing Options
(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 16, 2016)
Huntington Woods, MI – Huntington Woods City Council voted Tuesday to move ahead with the next phase of exploring housing options for the aging population.
Only Commissioner Allison Iverson voted no to the allocation of $8,800 on developing informational materials to explain potential options for senior housing and gather more input from residents.
Huntington Woods is known as the “City of Homes,” and it could be clarified to say “the City of single family homes.” Single family homes make up over 90% of the properties in the city, which makes for nice neighborhoods, but a limitation of options for those with other housing needs. In particular as more adults age into senior citizens, the concern is they may have to leave the community they love if they need a home that is accessible or if they need assistance in care.
SEMCOG projections show that by 2035 there will be a 24% decrease in people under 18, and a 72% increase in the number of people 65 or older in Huntington Woods. Proponents of considering senior-friendly housing options are trying to be proactive in keeping Huntington Woods an attractive community as the population shifts.
Working with Planning Experts Carlisle Worthman Associates, The Senior Advisory Committee has been coming up with preliminary findings about the potential for accessible housing.
There are 2,354 single family homes according to the report presented at the Commission meeting Tuesday. “What will happen as residents get older? Will senior residents be forced to leave their community to find other housing options? Will empty-nesters opt for smaller footprints and less maintenance?” These are some of the questions raised in the report.
The report built on previous research.
In 2012 the Huntington Woods Older Needs Assessment survey was answered by about 30% of the community’s residents of at least 50 years of age. The survey helped paint a picture of the community. “Based on the sample of resident respondents, Huntington Wood’s older adult population tends to be married, independent and relatively healthy,” the report stated. “While a majority of respondents felt they were totally independent, about half stated they would use home maintenance and repair services if they were available and made affordable. Comments revealed that several respondents already pay for private services to take care of their home.”
35% of those who responded expressed interest in other housing options such as condominiums, rental apartments, co-ops, housing with meals or other services, assisted living, continuum of care or nursing homes. Of these, independent living was preferred to more traditional senior housing models such as nursing homes.
The committee researched how living space affects the quality of life. The number of stories a building has can create a hazard for tripping and falling, and some people may not be able to take steps due to limited mobility. The square footage of a home matters too. A smaller home requires less funds and less indoor and outdoor maintenance. Doors and windows may be an issue, as injuries may happen when they are difficult to open or close. Hallways and doorways should be wide enough for a senior to maneuver. Good lighting can prevent tripping injuries. And bathrooms present challenges that could mean installing railings to help people move as needed. Features like this are related to “universal design,” the concept of making buildings as universally accessible as possible.
The committee identified ten senior housing facilities near Huntington Woods, including Oxford Park Towers, Royal Oak Manor, Barton Towners Co-Op Apartments, Meadowlark Home Care, Medilodge of Southfield, Genesis Home Care, Solaire Active Adult Community, Hilton Convalescent Home, Irvine Head Inury Home and Visiting Nurse Association.
Potential locations for housing development include along Woodward Avenue, along 11 Mile Road, along Coolidge Hwy, West of Scotia Road and the City Hall property.
The next step, approved Tuesday, is to plan two community events to discuss housing needs and options. Because many people are unfamiliar with terms like universal design, and all that goes into accessibility, creating educational materials will help make the conversation more productive. Discussions will center on what housing needs may be and how the city might work to attract developers to the area once the community’s desires are determined.
Some at the meeting were concerned about the expenditure. Others felt that the city should let the market determine the needs without the city being part of the conversation. Others were worried about changes in general.
Officials emphasized that no plans have been made. “A community conversation is in order,” said City Manager Amy Sullivan. “This is about finding out what residents want.”
City Commissioner Jules Olsman supported moving forward with the process. “It’s our job to look ahead… and you can’t look ahead without adequate data and planning,” Commissioner Olsman said. “The city that doesn’t plan for the future is the city that’s going to be left behind.”
“It’s important we continue to be proactive,” said Mayor Robert Paul. “We need to get as much public input as possible.”
Commissioner Iverson voted against the open houses, stating that she would rather see the $8,800 be spent on services for existing seniors to help them stay in their homes. She stated that she understands housing challenges. “My husband’s mother broke her hip and will need help in her home. At the same time we should let the market work,” Commissioner Iverson said.
Commissioner Jeff Jenks explained one aspect of the city’s interest. “We need to increase population and school aged children. If we have no space for families with children to move in, it will cost us,” Commissioner Jenks said, referring to the idea that seniors will move into smaller living spaces and the homes will be available for larger families.
He also emphasized that there are not specific plans on the table yet. “We’re nowhere near that,” he said. “In this instance we will be laying out a plan.”
For attorney and Senior Advisory Committee Chair Howard Collens believes in the value of planning. “In the 1920s when our houses were built, people were not thinking about this stuff, but we can,” he said.
The open houses will likely be later in the summer. To sign up for daily headlines and to be alerted of the meeting when it is scheduled, sign up for Daily Headlines at https://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=Oakland_County_115_News.
The study presented Tuesday can be downloaded at http://www.hwmi.org/newsdetail_T3_R208.php.
Note: an earlier version of this story had the amount at $8,000. It is actually $8,800. We apologize for the error.
Huntington Woods Continues Exploring Senior Housing Options