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Age-Restricted Communities Bring Benefits, Potential Problems for Schools

November 14, 2008 01:58 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Adult-only communities can bring funding to schools without the cost of additional students, but they pose problems, too.

More Cash, No Kids

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School officials in some of Chicago’s suburbs are embracing a growing trend: seniors-only housing communities. They bring in extra property tax revenue to a school district, but don’t give schools more students to pay for.

In Mundelein, Ill., Mayor Kenneth Kessler told the Chicago Tribune, “The schools tax them at the same rate, so basically it’s pure profit for the schools because there are no children.”

But the residents of these communities are not always pleased with the arrangement. In fact, some school districts have seen people protest over the high property tax they pay per student.

Many parents of school children often worry that an influx of seniors could mean failure for referendum proposals. “You have an older community that will feel as if they have paid into the system for their lifetime,” one parent explained to the Chicago Tribune.

Boston is another community that’s seen a boom in age-restricted housing in recent years. In 2005, The Boston Globe reported that the trend was due to baby boomers reaching an age where they wanted smaller homes and neighbors their age. Suburbs were frequently attractive places for these communities because they had plenty of land available for new housing developments.

There were concerns, though, that communities had started becoming more welcoming to older residents than young families. “Communities are pushing the developers in that direction thinking it’s going to have the least amount of impact,” Fred Habib, deputy director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, stated. The Boston Globe noted that a young family can place a larger burden on a municipal budget.
Officials in New Hampshire saw potential problems with an influx of age-restricted communities around the same time period. In 2005, the state’s population of people between age 65 and 74 was increasing twice as fast as the rest of the United States, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat.

Some communities in the state were restricting traditional subdivisions in favor of age-based housing as another means of raising taxes. The influx of seniors threatened to disturb the population balance and the workforce. Peter Francese, a demographer, asked, “How could these people (on planning boards) be so shortsighted?”

In Anne Arundel County, Md., residents and other officials have expressed the same concern about the “graying” of their populations as other communities. In 2007, people were grappling with the reality that overcrowding in schools meant developers could only build age-restricted housing—or nothing at all—in order to stop straining schools further.

“If done the right way, these communities are great. You know, I’ve never had as many friends and activities in my life as I do here,” Gene Ostrom, an age-restricted community resident said in a Washington Post article. “But if you keep building and building these homes, you know it’s going to have consequences.”

In fact, when Ostrom wanted to sell his home, he had a hard time finding a buyer. “Yes, there’s an aging population of baby boomers we can sell to,” Bill Lambros, a real estate agent, said. “But they can only absorb so much.”

Reference: Retirement communities

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