City considering $22M in repairs to affordable senior housing developments

Cathedral Terrace Apartments, a community for low-income seniors, is being renovated. Two more similar projects are in the pipeline.
Cathedral Terrace Apartments, a community for low-income seniors, is being renovated. Two more similar projects are in the pipeline.
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The demand for one of the basic necessities of life already exceeds the supply in Jacksonville. And the gap is going to widen.

The product is affordable housing for seniors who live at or below federal poverty benchmarks and those whose retirement income doesn’t allow them to afford market-rate rent.

In order to maintain existing housing stock, the city is considering bonding about $22 million to refurbish two facilities.

Baby boomers are entering their senior years and they are healthier and living longer than their parents, said Teresa Barton, executive director of Aging True Community Senior Services, St. John’s Cathedral’s nonprofit that manages three properties Downtown for seniors.

Many residents at Cathedral Terrace, Cathedral Towers and Cathedral Townhouse live on fixed incomes and qualify for subsidized housing.

“They didn’t save enough for their retirement,” said Barton. “Subsidized housing is the only option if they are going to have a decent place to live that they can afford.”

The market for senior housing is predicted to grow substantially and so will the need for rent assistance.

According to ElderSource, a local nonprofit that serves the needs of low-income seniors, more than 150,000 Duval County residents — about 20 percent of the county’s population — are age 60 or older. By 2030, it is projected that nearly 30 percent will be seniors.

In addition, Duval County has the highest rate of poverty among seniors in Northeast Florida with about 10 percent living at or below the federal standard.

For minority seniors, the percentage is even higher: about 33 percent in Northeast Florida and 50 percent in Duval County.

City Council is considering two bills requested by the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority that would make improvements at two senior subsidized housing communities.

The legislation would authorize issuance of about $22 million of Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds: Up to $9.75 million for Mount Carmel Gardens, a senior community in Southside and up to $12 million for Cathedral Towers.

The funds would be used for top-to-bottom renovations. Both buildings are nearly 50 years old and maintenance for decades has been limited to necessary repairs.

Barton said the project at the 17-story Cathedral Towers will mirror the work underway at Cathedral Terrace, including modern HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems; improved security and lighting; and new energy-efficient appliances. What Barton calls “21st-century amenities.”

“It’s what people expect and deserve,” she said.

The project at Mount Carmel is being supervised by Birmingham, Ala.-based BREC Development, which specializes in rehabilitating multifamily properties.

Managing member Steven Hydinger said the high-rise along University Boulevard near Interstate 95 is scheduled for the first total renovation since it opened in 1972.

The building’s roof will be replaced and the electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems will be upgraded.

New flooring will be installed in the apartments, along with energy-efficient appliances and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Other upgrades include an automated fire detection system, a key-card security system for resident entry and LED exterior lighting.

Hydinger said the community room will be expanded by 1,500 square feet and a space will be created for medical providers to perform routine health examinations.

On the exterior, plans include a gazebo, a putting green and a shuffleboard court.

“Our objective is to greatly improve the quality of life for residents,” said Hydinger.

Mount Carmel Gardens manager Kelly Mann said providing council approves issuance of the bonds, renovation will begin this summer and will be complete within 18 months.

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