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More Than 2,000 Detroit Seniors Kicked Out of Historic Buildings

Helping an old man

Detroit’s Griswold Building in Capitol Park used to offer housing with fixed, subsidized rent to low-income seniors. That changed this year as The Griswold became The Albert, and the 115 seniors who were living in the building were forced by developers to find new accommodations.

Senior Housing Preservation Detroit, a coalition of local agencies, formed to investigate the recent developments to the Downtown/Midtown area and found that as many as 2,000 other seniors nearby are also at risk for eviction.

The displacement comes as more developers aim to target young professionals. The Albert’s website promises “modern comfort, historic charm and unique amenities” in a luxury apartment setting.

Diane Smith, a member of the coalition, is working to find a housing preservation strategy for Detroit based on the ones that have been successful in other states. Smith is also the national development manager for CSI Support and Development, a nonprofit developer of affordable rental properties in Detroit.

Healthy communities, said Smith, need to have “a broad mix of income and broad mix of ages.”

Smith said that developers could use other strategies to push for senior housing, such as inclusionary zoning to set aside housing for low-income individuals and families.

Another strategy would be to preserve the current senior housing buildings that have federal contracts due to expire.

Tim Wintermute, executive director of the Hannan Foundation, gave three options for this strategy. The buildings could be sold to a nonprofit that will maintain the senior housing and renew those federal contracts; the buildings could retain some units covered by the project and transfer others to newly constructed or rehabilitated buildings; or transfer the entire contract and rent subsidies to a new or rehabilitated building.

Some in Detroit argue that the shift of seniors to urban cores is actually good for cities, including struggling ones like Detroit. With an estimated 27 million adults poised to need long-term care or other senior housing by the year 2050, more could choose a city area like Detroit.

This could revitalize the area as seniors look for more active lifestyles without having to drive to access amenities and entertainment options. They could also make more trips to the doctor and be able to interact more with members of the community.

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