The Kennedy Heights neighborhood may soon have affordable housing for its older residents, thanks to an initiative started by the Kennedy Heights Development Corporation (KHDC) with the neighborhood’s Community Council. It will be the first neighborhood in Cincinnati to have an “Aging in Community” program designed to find ways for the older population to stay in their community, even if they can’t stay in their homes any longer.
“Affordable housing for seniors has been needed for a long time,” says Realtor and Kennedy Heights resident Melissa McNally. “Most residents of Kennedy Heights like living here so much that they do not want to leave the community. However, it is not feasible for them to stay in their homes alone.”
Kennedy Heights has 5,240 residents, of which 1,050 (21 percent) are 65 and older. The Aging in Community initiative launched in 2015. Rather than focus on housing itself, the team decided to do something larger.
“It included an initiative to help our seniors age in Kennedy Heights, to stay in their house as long as they could,” says Steve Greiser, chairman of the Housing Committee for the Development Corporation. They also wanted to provide better access to community service resources.
“The team’s work involved a survey of Kennedy Heights residents who were 50 years old and over, and resulted in the funding of a senior service coordinator at the Caring Place in 2016,” says Greiser. “In 2017, Kennedy Heights was selected as a pilot neighborhood for a Dementia Inclusive Initiative. The program provides services and support to families and residents dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Urban design and planning firm MKSK recently completed an extensive community housing study and presented it at community housing workshop earlier this month, which was well-attended by residents. The overarching message: the retirees and elderly want to stay in the neighborhood.
In addition to affordable housing issues, other goals of the study were to improve and expand transportation options for seniors and their families and to investigate opportunities for the development of housing forms that enable seniors to age in the community and/or co-habitat with caregiving friends and family members.
So just how big of an issue is this?
“Seventy-three percent of seniors in Kennedy Heights thought they’d go into a retirement community or a continued care community, assisted living, nursing care. Almost nobody can do it. It’s too expensive,” Greiser says. “A lot of people lost their retirement in 2008. They had resources but lost them. People who were planning for this are waking up to reality. They can’t afford it.”
They’re alone, they’re capable, but “it comes to a point where they can’t stay in their homes anymore. We’re here to let the people know that we’re here. And to begin a conversation and let them explore what’s possible.”
Residents gave feedback at the meeting on the study and the goals. The KHDC and Community Council will consider all comments going forward. There will be another meeting before the end of the year to give final housing recommendations.
McNally, 54, says while the affordable housing plan doesn’t affect her now, it will in a few years. “I hope the plan will be a reality when I am old enough to utilize the housing.”