For decades Pooler attracted thousands of residents as development exploded in the town. But as people continue to flock to the booming suburb, one demographic remains short of housing.
Demand for housing has resulted in years of waiting for Pooler’s existing seniors’ residences. A new project for the development of residences for the elderly could offer relief.
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Pooler Town Council recently approved a self-catering seniors’ apartment complex for a site on the north-west corner of Pine Barren Road and Pooler Parkway. The 156-unit development is part of Washington DC-based senior housing developer Arden’s southeast expansion.
Construction is expected to begin in March 2023 and end in November 2024.
The age of the community will be limited to people 62 and over and unit prices will be market price. Site plans call for 136 units spread over four-story buildings and 20 one-story cottages.
Amenities include a swimming pool, outdoor food courts, dog park, pickleball courts, common areas, exercise rooms, dining rooms, and transportation shuttles. Up to 200 parking spaces are provided on site. Corridors and corridors will be wheelchair width.
Unlike an assisted living facility, the complex will not have on-site medical facilities.
“People would probably age out of this type of development and move into assisted living,” said John Northup, a lawyer for Bouhan Falligant, who spoke for Arden Senior Living at the April 9 council meeting.
An exploding senior population
Northup highlighted the growth of the elderly population (aged 65 or older), which is expected to increase by 92% by 2029. Within this demographic group are middle-income seniors, a group that the development of Pooler targets, Northup said.
Middle-income seniors are defined as people 75 and older who earn between about $25,000 and $95,000 a year, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Those in this income bracket have “too much financial resources to qualify for government support programs like Medicaid, but not enough to afford most private payment options for very long.”
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According to the NIC study, the population of middle-income seniors will double by 2030. More than one million senior housing units are needed to meet potential demand.
However, some Pooler residents believe low-income senior housing is a more pressing need, particularly for seniors living on fixed incomes.
With skyrocketing rents nationwide, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Pooler is between $1,400 and $1,500 according to several apartment rental websites. That’s a 38% increase over the previous year, according to rental data on Zumper.
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Market rate units like those proposed by Arden would effectively reduce the price for low-income seniors. Retirees on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receive up to $841 per month.
“All the housing I know of for seniors has waiting lists. Whether it’s a residence, an assisted living facility or a skilled nursing facility, there are waiting lists,” said Patti Lyons, president of the nonprofit. lucrative Senior Citizen’s Inc., “so obviously there’s not enough to take care of our elderly population.
Shortage of housing supply
Pinewood Village and Sheppard Station, Pooler’s only other independent seniors’ residences, serve low-income residents. Their waiting lists have more than hundreds of people vying for one of their 189 accommodations in total. This could take up to one to two years, according to a Pinewood Village spokesperson.
It’s a problem for everyone everywhere, according to Lyons.
“A lot of people expected the housing market to be normal, but suddenly few of us can afford to live in Savannah,” Lyons said, “it’s going to have a bigger effect on older people who have a fixed amount of money against someone who can still work.
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Pooler resident and senior Judy Omans said the odds were against the aging population. Omans main source of income comes from its Supplemental Security Income (SSI). She describes the welfare system as a convoluted balancing act.
After Omans SSI was increased due to the annual cost of living adjustment, she was placed in a higher income bracket. This kicked her out of Medicare benefits, forcing her to pay some of her Medicare costs as those costs increased. She says she now receives less overall income than in previous years.
“Some older people have to live two lives…working under the table to make ends meet,” she said.
But Omans said she was lucky to have her partner and children to rely on, because not everyone does.
“It’s easy to be alone,” Omans said.
Jane Curlee Nichols, who runs the CarePatrol senior placement service, can attest to the need for senior housing. The pandemic has strained an already strained industry, she explains. A shortage of in-home carers has pushed some to seek out-of-home accommodation, so having enough suitable options is crucial.
“There’s a need, regardless, for seniors right now,” Nichols said.
Through her work, Nichols has seen some people forced to move into nursing facilities and other assisted living situations when they don’t necessarily need intensive care.
“Because there are so few options, we see people with the ability moving in there,” she said, while it makes more sense for those people to be in a life complex for independent elderly and free up space for those who need medical assistance.
“There aren’t a lot of independent living options in the area, so it’s actually a really good stopover,” Nichols said.
Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nancyguann.