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Senior housing demand greater than its supply

Posted: Monday, September 17, 2007

Workers aren't even finished building senior housing facilities in Soldotna and Sterling and demand already has outstripped supply.

The director of the senior citizens center in Soldotna said she has 10 people on a waiting list for eight units being built behind the center "and we haven't started advertising yet," said Jan Fena.

The same is true in Sterling.

A second 10-unit building is being finished southeast of the Sterling Senior Center.

"We have a waiting list with probably 35 on it," said Judy Warren, executive director.

Both buildings are framed in and finishing work is being done on the interiors.

In Cooper Landing, where six senior apartments opened in April 2006, six more are being considered. Thirty-nine people are on the waiting list.

In Soldotna, the eight-unit building with six two-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom units is slated for completion Nov. 1.

They will rent out at $825 for the two-bedroom units and $700 per months for the smaller apartments. The price includes everything except electricity, Fena said.

Each apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen, including a stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal and washer and dryer, and each is designed for people with physical, visual and hearing handicaps. The smaller units have shower stalls that are handicapped equipped, as well.

Other than the kitchens, the apartments are unfurnished.

The building also features a community room residents may use themselves or to entertain guests, Fena said.

Sixteen off-street parking spaces will be available with plug-ins, she said. Future plans call for carports and a covered walkway to the senior center building.

"We have a strategic plan," Fena said. "Three years ago, Soldotna needed 15 units. We only had space for eight.

"Now we are looking for property inside the city limits for more housing," she said.

When asked when the new building in Sterling will be ready for occupancy, Warren said, "The last word I got was December.

"They're starting to put the cabinets in now," she said Friday.

All 10 units there will have two bedrooms; seven with two baths and three with one bath. One unit will have a roll-in shower stall for wheelchair access.

Warren said the rental rates have not yet been "formally decided."

In May, she said the rents were expected to be more than $800 per month.

All the apartments have lowered counter tops and cupboards to allow easier access for people in wheelchairs.

Sterling's first 10-unit apartment building, due east of the senior center, opened in 2004. The new building is just south of that one.

The Sterling seniors' 10-year plan calls for adding two 10-unit townhouse buildings near the center, as well as a senior fitness center and fitness swimming pool to be built northwest of the center.

Construction on the townhouses is expected to begin within two years, Warren said earlier.

"We're in the pre-development phase (of the project)," said Jacque Greenman, chair of the building and site committee for the Cooper Landing Senior Citizens Corporation, Inc.

The group has applied for a grant from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to build another six-unit building with four two-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments.

All have a heated garage and the building includes a commons room for all tenants to use.

Rents in the existing building are $780 for the one-bedroom units and $895 a month for the larger apartments.

"That includes all but the phone and cable if they want it," Greenman said.

The Cooper Landing senior housing is about two miles up Snug Harbor Road from the Sterling Highway.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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