Forums to seek public feedback on senior alternative housing options

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published March 23, 2016

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — The study of bringing senior alternative housing options into Huntington Woods will enter its second phase after the City Commission approved funds March 15 to hold two public forums on the matter.

In August of last year, the commission approved phase one of the study, headed by City Planner Hank Berry, after the Senior Advisory Committee had been using subcommittees to review the needs of the city’s senior population, including housing alternatives.

Throughout the first phase, the city worked with Carlisle Wortman Associates to not only study housing options, but also viable locations for potential developments.

At the latest commission meeting, the city had the option to either spend $7,800 on one weekday night meeting or $8,800 for a weekday night meeting and a Saturday meeting. The commission elected to go with the two meetings for an undetermined time this summer to get as much input as possible, City Manager Amy Sullivan said.

“Through the public forums, we want to introduce residents to the concept of universal design and have them start thinking about that as a concept, and second is to get community feedback on potential sites and types and if residents think there is a match,” Sullivan said.

“We want to get their feedback sooner rather than later to see if there is a fit.”

Looking at the results of the phase one study, Sullivan said administration focused on the projection that in 20 years, more than a quarter of the city’s population will be more than 65 years old.

Before diving into potential housing options and sites, Sullivan said the concept of universal design is an important option to consider, as some residents could make modifications to their homes to make them livable with declining mobility.

For the alternative housing options, the study looked at Woodward Avenue, Coolidge Highway and neighborhoods in the city where housing options could work. According to the study, a townhouse development may work better along Woodward, while condominiums might work better for Coolidge, and a bungalow court could keep residents in their neighborhoods. A bungalow court would involve small bungalow homes on a larger lot that face each other across a court.

“The whole purpose of the study is we realize that our population is aging, and we like to get in front of this issue of how our residents can age in place before it becomes an overwhelming issue,” Sullivan said.

Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle Wortman Associates, has worked on aging in place for nearly 10 years in Macomb and Oakland counties. In looking at Huntington Woods, Carlisle said that with an aging population, it is important to provide residents who want to stay in the community the option to do so.

“My premise is cities should make an active effort to retain that (aging) population,” Carlisle said. “That segment of our society has a lot of assets and things to contribute to the community, not the least of which is the financial resources to support various efforts in the community.”

While Carlisle said universal design should be an option most people should consider, offering alternatives that make it easier for the aging population to stay in their communities is important, such as homes with few stairs or housing that doesn’t require much upkeep.

“There is no one size fits all, as there are a variety of different housing types that could be considered,” Carlisle said. “Whatever option is considered has to be compatible with the existing housing stock. Anything that is done has to be of a quality and character complementary to the city.”

Although no plans are in motion for anything to build, Sullivan said one site that has been looked at includes the lot at the corner of Coolidge and Lincoln Drive that currently houses a Rite-Aid, but is on the market.

However, Sullivan said she doesn’t see the city “acting as a broker” to encourage development, but rather the city would change the permitted zoning use in certain areas if the city decided to move forward with senior housing options to allow developers to start a project, if interested.

Whatever the community decides, Sullivan said it is important to have the conversation so those aging in the community know their options.

“The city is being proactive in looking at this issue, because we know it is coming and we don’t want to be reactive,” she said. “No specific proposals are being made, but we are just asking residents for their input. It is all very conceptual, and we are just looking for feedback.”

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