Although America’s older population is increasing rapidly, affordable housing for it is in short supply. In fact, the need soon will reach unprecedented levels according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, which predicts the number of Americans over 50 will grow to 132 million by 2030.

On the cusp of this impending crisis, a team of developers, architects, and government officials has created a new kind of independent living facility in New Orleans that raises the bar on how the country’s seniors will age in place. Made possible through the cooperation of public and private agencies, the $20 million Heritage Senior Residences offers a fresh approach to aging in place, thanks to a creative layout, diverse amenities, and a focus on energy efficiency—all for less than $120 per square foot (gross).

Developed by Columbia Residential and the Bayou District Foundation, the LEED Platinum facility is home to seniors 62 and older who earn 80 percent or less of the area median income. Residents pay 30 percent of their income toward rent with the difference made up by the Housing Authority of New Orleans, says Columbia Residential president Jim Grauley.

The development, which won a Builder’s Choice Design Award this year, exudes a comfortable, welcoming feel inside and out and borrows design elements from iconic New Orleans buildings. The 111 one- and two-bedroom apartments and nine cottages make up the final phase of the 52-acre Columbia Parc mixed-use, mixed-income community, and are easily accessible to the area’s social services. “We don’t try to create a whole new set of programming in our sites,” Grauley says. “We coordinate them so we can take advantage of the resources in the larger community.”

Residents enjoy amenities such as a pool, vegetable garden, park, and community room. An on-site primary care and dental clinic is under construction.

Heritage is one of 16 independent living communities that Columbia Residential has developed, but Grauley says those projects haven’t begun to make a dent in the need for well-designed affordable senior housing. “We see a huge demand now, and demographically we see even more demand coming,” he says.

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