Senior Housing

To illustrate my point, I provide a clip from Monty Python. The skit is about a man, Dennis Moore, and his misguided and poorly thought out attempts to level economic justice by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. It goes well in the beginning, but Dennis is a one-trick-pony and not a very critical thinker. So he keeps robbing and robbing until the rich are poor and the poor are rich causing him pause to say “this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought!”

Monty Python - Dennis Moore

His original actions may have been motivated by the believe in economic justice but lack of understanding of the deeper issues topped with his lack of creative problem solving and sticking to the only thing he could do well lead him to be a major (if unintended) player in carrying out major social injustices.

Richfield’s City Hall – Viva la 1980s!

Many of the Richfield movers and shakers have been around since the 1980s and 1970s. I know this because I went to high school back then and was a political cartoonist for the Richfield Sun (Now Richfield Sun-Current). I moved away when I went to college but came back and bought a house in 2002 and was amazed to find some of the same people in power and even more amazing was that while the world and Richfield had changed dramatically they had not nor had their policies.

One example was the love affair with senior citizen housing at 66th and Lyndale. By 2003 they had created a large fixed income/senior ghetto and were effectively cutting off the blood supply to the business community so that even a Dunn Bros. or Quiznos couldn’t survive there. However, they created a great climate for medical storefronts like a dialysis clinic or for discount dollar stores.

What worked well in the 1980’s with the Lake Shore Drive Condos didn’t work so well thirty years later when repeated over and over and over…

This is clearly going on with the affordable housing issue right now. Richfield 1970/1980 was very white and very middle class, diversity and affordable housing were clear issues that a progressive thirty or forty-something would have seen and should have been concerned about. But fast forward to 2012 when Richfield is now one of the most diverse suburbs in the metro area, even more diverse than many areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It also now has one of the most affordable home owner and rental housing stocks in the metro as well.

So the issues toward these should change. Instead of “how do me make Richfield more diverse?”, it should be “how can we understand each other better?” and more importantly, instead of “how do we make more affordable housing for those with low incomes?” The focus should be on maintaining the quality AND affordability of the existing rental stock not adding more and more low income housing when the older forty to fifty year old rental apartments are running down.

If being a champion of social justice is what is wanted then they need a better understanding of the deeper issues and to start creatively problem solve as well as take unpopular political risks by holding accountable the Metropolitan Council and wealthy cities like Edina who continue to shirk their responsibility of helping the poor with low income workforce housing.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

Are churches in Edina only for show?

One of the things I have noticed going to Corridor Housing Initiative meetings on 76th Street is how developer driven the solutions were to our senior housing issues. Yes there was “community input” but I can’t shake the feeling that the community was only given lip service rather than real power. After all I had suggested developing artist work/live housing, something other than senior housing which was the favorite with the developers on the presenting on the panel.

While living in Richfield, all I ever heard was the need to “build” more senior housing and to get seniors out of their homes. Why has there been no solution to help seniors stay in their homes so they can age in place? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that Americans have a constitutional right to be cared for in the least restrictive environment — which means at home.

Maybe the city has programs that I am missing but I one program that is very effective and not in place in Richfield is the Block Nurse Program is a community service program that uses volunteer to help older adults remain in their homes as long as possible. Using a combination of neighborhood volunteers and health professionals, the program provides information, support services and health care to neighborhood residents over the age of 65.

The aging at home option is not (surprise surprise) a solution pushed by the developers. I am not saying that senior housing is not needed or necessary but given the savings to taxpayers and the quality of live issues, I am surprised this is not an option supported by more by the city.

On January 14,2008 the Housing and Redevelopment Authority  and the City Council had a special meeting to discuss senior housing needs in Richfield and Mary Bujold from Real Estate Research and Consultant firm Maxfield Research Inc. was there (the meeting minutes do not report in what capacity she was there – as a neighborhood volunteer, or hired consultant)  to report on the senior housing need in the Twin Cities and to answer questions from the HRA and council. 

She was asked the direct question/s “Does Richfield have too much senior housing but not enough affordable senior housing?”

From the minutes: “Ms. Bujold stated that due to some restrictions in the 1990’s, there is now a need for affordable senior housing.” It is interesting to note that the meeting minutes do not reflect that she had answered the first part of the question “Does Richfield have too much senior housing?” but rather made it an affordable housing issue.

She was also asked “what percentage of residents from the community move into senior housing?”

The question is somewhat confusing as what is really being asked and said. Is the question “Of 100% of seniors what percentage actually move into senior housing before they die (as opposed to die from there homes) or is the question really “what percentage of Richfield senior housing actually have residents that moved there from out side of Richfield?”

Here anwswer appears to answer the latter question in the meeting minutes, “Ms. Bujold stated that generally 85% of seniors from the community are in senior housing. Although, she explained that percentage usually includes residents from adjoining communities.”

So 85% of ALL seniors in Richfield live in senior housing, of that it is still unknown how many were originally Richfield homeowners and how many are immigrants from Bloomington, Minneapolis, Edina, etc…

So the meeting was a waste as it never answered the original question: Does Richfield have too much senior housing?