Attracted by a growing housing demand caused by the burgeoning senior citizen population in South Florida, a Houston-based developer is staking out Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables as locations for multiple elder communities in the region.
Belmont Village Senior Living owns and operates 29 communities in major U.S. cities, as well as in Mexico City. The company recently broke ground on a rental project for the elderly on Seminole Drive in Fort Lauderdale near the Galleria Mall. The projected opening: the first quarter of 2020.
Patricia Will, founder and CEO of Belmont, said her company intends to build between five and 10 luxury rental communities between Palm Beach and Coral Gables, which is where Belmont expects to build its second South Florida enclave with the assistance of Baptist Health South Florida.
Florida is a national leader in drawing senior citizens from other states as permanent residents. According to a recent survey by MagnifyMoney, a site owned by Lending Tree, baby boomers and older people who have surpassed retirement age are fueling a rapid growth in the upper age groups of warm weather states such as Florida and Arizona. And they are bringing lots of financial power with them.
The survey found that Florida leads all 50 states in combined adjusted gross income of people who move in at $17.7 billion.
But that doesn’t mean that with all of that financial strength, there is a enough suitable housing to go around for longtime incumbent residents who have graduated into the twilight years, as well as the newcomers from out of state.
Area housing analysts have no doubt there is demand, particularly for the combination of independent, assisted and memory care housing Belmont is proposing.
“You have to be fairly affluent and have a nice source of income in your retirement to afford assisted living,” said Jack McCabe, of McCabe Research in Deerfield Beach. “There is a growing demand for it.”
More opt for renting over owning
“The trend is towards renting,” said Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University. “You can separate from one area and relocate much easier. Once you buy a house, you’re anchored to the health care system in the area.”
Area developers and operators, however, continue to build communities designed for seniors who still want to own homes and apartments.
John Knox Village in Pompano Beach recently announced it is adding 150 apartments to its inventory of 662 independent living units and villa homes. Prices range from $332,000 to just under $610,000. The residents are 62 and up. Some are retired; others are still working.
In Palm Beach County, Kolter Homes is finding buyer demand from among people who are 55 and up, said John Manrique, vice president of marketing.
The location of the company’s Cresswind development in West Lake offers proximity to cultural amenities and medical services without being in the center of a dense urban area.
“It all appeals to the 55 plus,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have to be right in the city center.”
Some of the buyers own businesses, others are semi-retired and can work from home. The prices — ranging between the 200s and 500s — are right, too, for those who don’t want a large home, but are still interested in owning a small one.
When owning isn’t an option
But as time marches on, homeownership is not an appealing option as retirees move into their 70s and beyond, analysts say.
Belmont’s target rental residents are people in their 80s and 90s. The “young people” in the residences are in their high 70s, said Will of Belmont.
“Our aim is for people who enjoyed a good lifestyle to continue to enjoy the lifestyle they knew when they were younger,” she said. “The whole proposition of older age is an opportunity and a gift.”
Belmont will offer multiple living options, depending on mobility and degree of independence and memory.
While there are other rental communities for the elderly operating in the tri-county area, Will said there is a substantial lack of supply of South Florida living quarters for those who have stretched their lives well beyond retirement age.
From the standpoint of a multi-family developer who specializes in housing for the elderly, Will said South Florida is fertile territory. It reminds her of the senior housing profile of Los Angeles more than two decades ago. The company now operates seven communities there and is planning an eighth.
“We looked at [the region] earlier in our 22-year history and decided that because we were coming of age, we would wait until we were sure we had the bandwidth organizationally to create another important region,” Will said.
“We looked at [South Florida] and said, Tthis is a terrific opportunity.’”
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