Vibrant mixed-income housing allows seniors to 'age in place' in Sugar Grove

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- Families move out of the city oftentimes for bigger, more affordable places. But what happens to the seniors who want to live near their families, or can't afford the upkeep on their homes? Sugar Grove, just west of Aurora, has a solution in the form of subsidized senior housing that is mixed income and made possible through governments at all levels working together to solve the affordability crisis.

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With an average median income of just over $100,000, Sugar Grove is affluent. It's said one should spend no more than 30% of income on housing, but that math doesn't work for so many people, especially seniors on a fixed income.

So along came Sugar Grove Senior Living, a building for residents aged 55 and over where rent is based on income. There are units for those making 30, 50 and 60 percent of that median $100,000 income. The result is a vibrant community where seniors can "age in place."

At the 4-year-old facility, Kathy Edgar shares a two-bedroom apartment with her 89-year-old mother. They pay $803 per month, as their joint social security checks add up to just under the income limit for their space, $36,650. Market rent would be $1,125 per month.

"If I were paying that kind of rent in an unsubsidized place, it would take my whole Social Security check," Edgar said. "And I wouldn't be able to purchase or buy or you know, spend any other money."

The same goes for Alice and Dick Bieritz, who moved in five months ago after 35 years in Clearwater, Florida. They came back to Sugar Grove to be closer to their kids.

"There are going to be a lot of people in the years to come," Dick Bieritz said. "We're going to need places like this."

Indeed, with the poverty rate in Sugar Grove at 9.4 percent there is a waiting list 71 names long. Half of the $16 million project was made possible federal community development block grants and state housing incentives held by developers who coordinated with the non-profit Northwest Housing Partnership. They work to put together quality housing for low- to moderate-income people.

"I see a lot of seniors living in homes that are very dilapidated and can't afford to get those homes repaired," said Robyn Sandys, executive director of the Northwest Housing Partnership. "I think that is a crisis."

And then there is the local connection and a 20-year mayor dedicated to the age-in-place philosophy for seniors that pushed the project.

"A person raises a family and then they want to downsize and when they downsize, they want to stay in the same community so this apartment complex and the tax credit really make it affordable," Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels said. "Mixing different income levels is good for a community."

"I am still relatively young," Edgar said. "I like to go out and spend time with people who are my peers and be out in the public and I won't be able to do that if I didn't have that flexibility."

Northwest Housing Partnership has another similarly financed building in Sugar Grove as well as projects in Elgin, Bartlett, Elk Grove Village and Montgomery.

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