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Money & Policy

Here’s a Creative Way to Create Senior Housing Fast

This clever way of reusing old New Jersey buildings could be a model for the U.S.


Empty convents, shuttered school buildings, abandoned motels. Where some people see eyesores, others see opportunities for creating  affordable housing for the nation’s  growing aging population.

A recent article in The New York Times explains how an innovative “adaptive reuse” approach to make housing for older adults is catching on throughout New Jersey.

“In Montvale, the United Way of Bergen County is transforming a long-shuttered school into a 10-apartment building for older adults, a renovation expected to cost $1.6 million to $2 million because the classrooms are about the size needed for the one-bedroom apartments they are scheduled to become,” the article states.

That may sound like a lot of money, but a new building would likely have cost closer to $3 million, the article goes on, and reuse has the benefit of being greener, too.

After successfully converting a convent into the Senior Residence at St. Peter the Apostle, the nonprofit Build With Purpose is now on a mission to “open 100 new units of senior housing in 1,000 days,” the article notes.

“We’re looking for the kind of real estate that best lends itself to use as senior housing,” Brian Keenan, president of Build With Purpose, is quoted as saying. “The question we try to answer with every project is: How do we use real estate for social change?”

It’s a great question, one others around the country should be asking, too.

By Heidi Raschke
Heidi Raschke is a longtime journalist and editor who previously was the Executive Editor of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and Living and Learning Editor at Next Avenue. Currently, she runs her own content strategy and development consultancy.@heidiraschke
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