Philly could get affordable housing for seniors raising grandchildren

Philadelphia developers could get millions to build more affordable senior housing, and new rules promote building intergenerational apartments.

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Patricia Vaughn speaking at a podium

North Philadelphia native Patricia Vaughn moved into The Fairthorne in Roxborough about a decade ago and shared her experiences in the HUD-backed apartment complex. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

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North Philadelphia native Patricia Vaughn moved into an affordable senior apartment complex in Roxborough about a decade ago.

At the time, she was paying $700 monthly for an apartment in West Oak Lane, which did not include utilities.

But at The Fairthorne, there were 40 new one-bedroom apartments with all the essentials included in the rent. Low-income seniors like Vaughn would pay no more than one-third of their income for rent each month.

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The remainder was subsidized by regular payments by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Vaughn heard about the development from her sister and applied right away. She got in.

Now in her 70s, she enjoys decorating the community meeting room for holidays.

“You pay your rent, and everything else is taken care of,” she said. “It’s just a blessing. That’s one less thing that I have to worry about.”

And that’s the model federal officials want to continue with a new round of grants earmarked for senior rentals — a total of $115 million nationwide.

HUD officials expect that money to support building — and keeping — about 2,000 affordable apartments in the market.

“We provide capital funding in the form of a loan, but it doesn’t have to be repaid as long as the project remains affordable for about 40 years,” said Adrianne Todman, HUD Deputy Secretary. “You can build housing all day long. But what makes it deeply affordable for seniors is the annual rental subsidy HUD provides which goes to the operating costs of the building.”

Adrianne Todman speaking at a podium
HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman toured The Fairthorne in Philadelphia as a model of what developers can do with the latest round of federal grants for senior housing. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

This year, there’s a twist – developers can use some of the money to build intergenerational housing units – where seniors are raising their grandchildren.

About $35 million is slated for projects incorporating these intergenerational housing units.

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“That’s going to help seniors who are raising minor children to be able to stay in their home and live with dignity,” Todman said. “But these funds are not a given.”

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans advocated for the funding in Congress — which HUD leaders said is discretionary funding and not guaranteed each year.

The last time HUD’s multifamily housing program doled out $160 million nationwide was in October 2023. Philadelphia nonprofit Opportunities Services Corp. snagged $2.1 million to build 41 new senior apartment units.

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