A Public/Private Venture
A public/private venture to develop a full master-planned community, Miraflores was far ahead of its time when city officials first envisioned the community in the late 1990s. The goal was to provide affordable housing for lower-income residents — especially families — and seniors, while creating a sparkling, new community that, although affordably priced, would be embraced by the city of La Quinta as a whole.
After more than 18 months of intense study to determine the community’s feasibility as an affordable housing enclave, Miraflores was planned on a 40-acre site within the city's redevelopment district. The groundbreaking took place in 1999.
The community features Mediterranean-inspired architecture, open space, landscaping and abundant walkways that encourage neighborhood interaction and pedestrian circulation. It also provides facilities for meetings and parties and recreational amenities like a clubhouse, multi-purpose room, patio, lap pool, outside game area and gardening areas.
Initially priced from approximately $98,000-$158,000, the 86 for-sale, single-family detached homes were at first marketed to families earning 80% or less of the median income for Riverside County. Homes ranged in size from 1,760-2,100 square feet. Stylish floor plans featured central courtyards, three to five bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and a wide variety of special options and amenities.
While all homes were affordably priced, the city decided, at the builder's request, to sell a portion of the homes to first-time and lower-income buyers and the rest at market rate to bolster sales since many interested buyers had higher incomes and didn’t qualify for the affordably priced homes.
A Popular Choice With Families
Whether affordably priced or market-rate, Miraflores' single-family detached homes were extremely popular with families. In fact, 41% of Miraflores' households have children. The mix of affordable and market-rate pricing worked well, and the for-sale neighborhood quickly sold out. All homes have similar architectural styling and neighborhood character, which makes the community’s affordably priced homes purchased with financial assistance indistinguishable from the market-rate homes.
According to Terry Henderson, a member of the city council who also chairs the city's redevelopment agency, a combination of financing sources made it possible to build the affordable homes.
The builder drew on redevelopment agency funds, private capital, non-profit entities, low-income housing tax credits, municipal bonds, downpayment assistance programs, home owner association fee buy-downs and intermixed market-rate housing.
The largest percentage of Miraflores' home owners consists of teachers, followed by retail workers and retirees. Other occupations include nursing, medical professions, law enforcement, construction and secretarial work.
"The concept for Miraflores was to create a fully integrated residential community that provided high-quality, affordable for-sale and rental housing opportunities for a wide range of workers and retirees," Henderson said.
Local Builder Involvement
Construction of 118 duplex senior apartments within Miraflores began in March 2002. Built by DC&TC, LLC, a division of La Quinta-based Desert Cities Development, and owned and managed by LINC Housing Corporation, the single-story units feature Mission-style architecture. They are being rented to residents ages 55 years and older with annual incomes at 50% or less of the average median income.
Michael Shovlin, a principal of DC&TC, said his firm's mission is to plan and build quality affordable housing in partnership with public entities such as the La Quinta Redevelopment Agency. He said his company immerses itself in the community, gathering information and input through outreach programs and ongoing communications with residents, city officials and other community stakeholders.
"We see ourselves as more than developers," Shovlin said."We live here and are members of this larger community."
SEASONS at Miraflores, the new seniors neighborhood, includes 93 one-bedroom units with monthly rents starting at $467 (the average market-rate rent for a comparable unit is $750) and 23 two-bedroom units with monthly rents starting at $561 (the average market-rate rent is about $900).
Situated near Miraflores' community green space and central village park, the senior apartment neighborhood has its own 2,970-square-foot clubhouse, which serves as the neighborhood activity center. The facility features a library, media room, full kitchen, computer learning center, arts and crafts space, exercise and laundry rooms and a community room where residents can enjoy holiday parties, morning coffee and pastries, bingo and an array of social and educational events.
In keeping with Southern California's outdoor lifestyle, a pool and furnished patio area also are available to senior residents. SEASONS at Miraflores won a silver award for small active adult community in the 2004 Best of Seniors Housing Design Awards competition.
Long Beach, CA.-based Community Housing Management Services, a nonprofit entity that provides property management services for SEASONS at Miraflores, spread the word about the new community and its affordable rents to local seniors through informational meetings, ice cream socials, watermelon nights and other creative activities. As a result, SEASONS at Miraflores was 62% leased just six weeks after opening in April 2003.
Financing and Other Challenges
Financing for the seniors project totaling $16.3 million came from three sources: $9.39 million from the City of La Quinta Redevelopment Agency in the form of a residual receipts loan; $3 million from Fannie Mae tax-exempt bonds; and $3.9 million in equity invested via Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
Because the tax credits are applied on a building-by-building basis and require a building to be fully leased before a credit is granted, leasing representatives had to work closely with prospective residents to ensure that each duplex was fully leased before the next duplex could be shown.
Another challenge unique to Miraflores — but indicative of the type of problems that can arise — was a Native American campsite with archeological significance that had to be accommodated in the site planning. To accomplish that, the campsite area was preserved as open space and planted with a variety of desert flora. The community plan created a visual amenity that accentuates Miraflores' sense of openness and further enhances its character as a low-density residential community.
Catering to Active Adult Lifestyles
Miraflores' seniors housing neighborhood represents several important trends in building successful communities for 55+ residents. First, seniors don't want to live in traditional two-story homes. Regardless of their fitness and dedication to exercise, they prefer to live in single-story homes or apartments that require little or no maintenance.
And, although they probably don’t have younger children at home, seniors want to be able to accommodate their older children and grandchildren. They also want enough space to comfortably entertain family and friends. For obvious reasons, handicap accessibility is important.
Older residents also want amenities as part of their lifestyle package. They have no intention of spending their days playing cards or watching TV. They want facilities such as pools and recreation centers to make their lives more active and enjoyable. Many prefer to live in gated communities like Miraflores where they feel more secure. And, not surprisingly, they want peace and quiet.
It's becoming clearer from experience and more sophisticated market research that active adults aren’t all that different from anyone else who wants to rent an apartment or buy a home. Active adults have different tastes, economic requirements and lifestyle needs. They seek their own level of community camaraderie, enjoyment and lifestyle activity. At the end of the day, like everyone else, they desire a secure, comfortable place to live in a more traditional neighborhood setting.
A benefit of Miraflores' housing mix is that it allows seniors to live near their grown children and their families. Grandparents and grandchildren are only a short walk away from each other.
One of the SEASONS at Miraflores’ first residents was a widower who wanted to be closer to his grown child who was living in a Miraflores single-family detached home. Another resident came from Palm Springs at the urging of her daughter, who wanted her mother to live closer to her in La Quinta. It’s these folks for whom SEASONS at Miraflores was built.
Hunter L. Johnson is president and chief executive officer of Long Beach, Calif.-based LINC Housing, a 501(c)(3) non-profit affordable housing development corporation. LINC grew out of the Corporate Fund for Housing (CFH), a non-profit organization formed by the Southern California Association of Governments, and has developed more than 4,200 units in 29 communities with half of its properties rented to residents at or below 60% of their area’s median income. Johnson, an active member of the NAHB Seniors Housing Council, is a frequent speaker at organizations such as the Urban Land Institute and NAHB. He and his company have won numerous awards, including a silver award for small active adult community in the 2004 Best of Seniors Housing Design Awards. For more information, e-mail Johnson, or call him at 562-684-1101.
This article was reprinted from the Summer 2003 edition of Seniors' Housing News, published quarterly by NAHB's Seniors Housing Council. For publication information, e-mail Jeff Jenkins, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
Photos courtesy of LINC Housing.
Attend the 2005 Seniors Housing Symposium in Metro Washington, D.C. Area
Learn more about the fastest-growing segment of the housing market. Plan to attend Building for Boomers & Beyond: Seniors Housing Symposium 2005, the premier educational and networking event for industry professionals serving the burgeoning 50+ market. For more information, click here.
Enter the 2005 Best of Seniors Housing Awards — Entries Due Nov. 5
Enter your community design, clubhouse, models or marketing and merchandising in the 2005 Best of Seniors Housing Awards competition.
The competition has more than 100 categories to choose from, including active adult, assisted living, continuing care retirement community, congregate care community, renovated seniors housing, special needs housing, seniors multifamily and more.
For details, visit Call for Entries, or call 800-368-5242 x8220.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
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