Housing battle of the ages

Gilroy
 – A battle of the ages is brewing at Village Green Estates, one
of Gilroy’s few affordable senior housing projects, as a disabled
man campaigns to allow 50-somethings into the community.
Gilroy – A battle of the ages is brewing at Village Green Estates, one of Gilroy’s few affordable senior housing projects, as a disabled man campaigns to allow 50-somethings into the community.

Donald Prestigiacomo, a 58-year-old Hollister resident with a number of disabilities, has spent the last three months lobbying Mayor Al Pinheiro and City Council members to lower the age restriction from 62 to 55 at Village Green, located at the corner of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Hecker Pass Highway.

The council is prepared to make a final decision on April 4.

The change would allow Prestigiacomo – who suffers from arthritis, diabetes and memory loss –  to purchase one of the few remaining market-rate homes in the community and access its home-based health care and other assisted-living services. The change would also allow him to live closer to Kaiser Medical Center, where he receives his medical treatment.

“The government is by and for all the people,” Prestigiacomo said. “This is something that’s going to benefit everybody, not just me.”

Although Prestigiacomo began the fight alone, support for his cause has also come from a substantial portion of Village Green residents, 61 of whom signed a petition urging council members to reduce the age limit.

“From working with the residents and owners out there, we’ve seen a large number of residents increasingly desire age diversification,” said Miguel Vasquez, a representative with the developers of the project, DMA Gilroy Partners LLC. “It’s the human factor of people desiring to have younger ideas, thoughts, activity levels.”

But not everyone is on board with the plan.

Judith King, 67, and her husband pay $1,139 a month to live in an affordable housing unit at Village Green. She worries that lowering the age threshold will crowd out people closer to retirement who have a more limited income and a greater need for assisted-living services.

“If they lower the age to 55, it just threw me because I could see it opening up another marketplace,” King said. “They’re still working and making higher incomes. Perhaps the owners and investors want to tap that market.”

Of the 151 units at Village Green, only 13 market-rate homes remain to be leased or sold, with prices ranging from $430,000 to $489,000, according to Vasquez. That represents a third of the market-rate cottages in the community. The developers have already leased or sold the 37 below-market rate homes and rented out all 75 apartments ear-marked for low-income residents.

King acknowledged that some residents would like to see a greater mix of age groups, but said there are also people who worry about a younger crowd disrupting the calm of the community.

“I’m not sure under what guise they’re doing this,” King said. “I don’t see why they can’t just go to the city and make an exception for that one person.”

But that’s precisely what city officials seem unlikely to do.

Councilman Bob Dillon said he is “hesitant to make an exception for one person.”

Mayor Al Pinheiro also expressed reservations, adding a note of frustration over the developer’s slow pace in building an Alzheimer’s Care facility – the centerpiece of the project and a key factor in convincing councilmen to approve the project in the first place.

Pinheiro said he would reserve final judgment until he sees the recommendation of city staff, but said that “so far, I haven’t heard anything that’s convincing me to change the age group we have there now.”

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