A lot of people might like to retire at Garden Spot Village.
With a variety of housing options and a full slate of programs and amenities, the 232-acre campus just outside New Holland can seem like the ideal place to spend the golden years.
Yet not everyone can afford to live there.
So, even as Garden Spot continues to expand its more traditional housing options, it’s building something new for low-income retirees.
Next month, Garden Spot Village expects to begin construction on a “cooperative living house” for five senior citizens who will have their own bedroom and bathroom but share a living room, dining room and kitchen.
The cooperative living house is believed to be the first such senior-living facility in the nation.
Its residents will pay rent on a sliding scale that will not exceed 30 percent of their monthly income.
“It’s really designed to be a program that’s available to lower income people and will not use any government subsidies, which is what makes it really unique,” said Steve Lindsey, Garden Spot Village’s chief executive officer.
Meant to help address a housing crisis for seniors, Garden Spot Village and its community partners hope the house will inspire others to organize similar places where older people can live together affordably.
Lindsey says the cooperative living house is a natural outgrowth of its mission to “enrich the lives of older adults as an expression of Christ’s love.”
“We recognize that that mission is not dependent on socio-economic level. It’s really a calling to serve people regardless of their income and their assets,” Lindsey said.
More than Garden Spot Village
The estimated cost for the roughly 3,400-square-foot home along Ranck Road is around $525,000.
But the actual cost should ultimately be considerably lower, thanks to help from volunteers and community groups.
“The neat part about it is it’s not just a Garden Spot Village project, it’s a project of the local community all coming together,” Lindsey said.
Volunteers will do most of the construction work on the house, taking inspiration from crews that work with Mennonite Disaster Service in other parts of the country.
“You look at how many times groups go to other parts of the world to do the same thing, and now there’s something right here in our neighborhood,” said Weaverland Mennonite Church pastor Brian Martin, who will be organizing some work crews.
Martin said he’s not worried about getting enough volunteers — he’s more worried about managing all of the ones that show up.
“The DNA of our local community is very quick to help others, quick to help a neighbor in need,” Martin said.
While he’s not sure how much will be saved by using volunteers, Lindsey said reducing initial construction costs will allow the house to be sustainable, even if residents pay below-market rent rates.
Once the house is built, Garden Spot Village, which has around 400 employees and 1,000 residents, will oversee and manage the property. That effort will include doing maintenance of the building and grounds as well as providing social services for residents, if needed.
But some ongoing costs for the residents may be underwritten by community groups, which also plan to support the residents.
Fred Groff, of The Groff-High Funeral Home, has been been helping solicit in-kind donations for the cooperative house.
And Joan Yunginger, social services director of CrossNet Ministries, has been helping determine who will be selected to live in the house.
Getting the right mix of residents will go a long way toward creating a community that can support each other and become friends.
“This age group has a tendency to kind of keep to themselves,” Yunginger said. “This will give them a chance, if they want to, to all sit down and eat lunch together, or supper.”
New approach to a growing problem
The community effort Garden Spot Village is leading is a novel solution to what supporters see as a glaring need for such housing for senior citizens.
The extent of that need was apparent when nine people applied for the five spots on the first day applications were accepted.
“There is clearly a need and we think, certainly in the beginning, the need is going to outstrip the supply,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey said he hopes a success at the cooperative living house will lead to more houses, either at Garden Spot or in other places.
“We think it’s something that could have potential for communities all over the state,” he said.
Linda Couch, vice president for housing policy of LeadingAge, a national association of nonprofit senior service providers, said the cooperative living center appears to be a unique project for a retirement community.
“It sounds like a dream, right? You get a mix of people, sliding scale on your rent, a range of services by a committed partner who has brought together all these other committed partners.” Couch said. “It’s going to be some very lucky people that live here.”