Senior housing frees up

Gilroy
– Hundreds of names once appeared on a waiting list to get into
Wheeler Manor, one of a handful of affordable senior housing
communities in Gilroy. But in the last two years, that waiting list
has vanished and more than a dozen vacancies have cropped up at the
Sixth Street apartments.
Gilroy – Hundreds of names once appeared on a waiting list to get into Wheeler Manor, one of a handful of affordable senior housing communities in Gilroy. But in the last two years, that waiting list has vanished and more than a dozen vacancies have cropped up at the Sixth Street apartments.

“For the past 10 years we’ve had very little need to publicize because we’ve had very significant waiting lists,” said Dennis Lalor, the head of South County Housing, the nonprofit that owns Wheeler.

That situation has reversed, as 14 of Wheeler’s 110 units sit unoccupied.

Pricing is not an issue, as Wheeler offers some of the cheapest one-bedroom apartments in the area, ranging from $426 to $614. Applicants need only be 62 years of age and qualify as low income.

Lalor attributed the decline in tenancy to a number of causes. Some residents, he said, look for assisted-care facilities as they grow older and are less able to care for themselves. Others leave as a result of shifts in the broader economy.

“It kind of reflects what we’re seeing in rents in general,” Lalor said. “Three of four years ago they went up like crazy. That has had a big impact on families. It’s lead them to relocate to other areas like the Central Valley. When they do that, their parents and elderly relatives leave with them.”

Wheeler is not the only affordable senior community in Gilroy seeing its tenant list shrink.

Kim Smith, property manager at Plum Tree Apartments off Monte Bello Drive, has also seen the waiting list for the affordable senior housing evaporate. Where applicants once waited for several years for one of the roughly 80 apartments, they now can get in within three or four months, according to Smith.

“The turnover rate has been high,” she said. “A lot of it has been for relocation reasons. It’s directly correlated with families wanting their loved ones nearby.”

But despite the pressure of the regional economy, Lalor saw the current vacancies more as a temporary slump than a permanent downturn.

“The nature of this type of housing and the ultimate demand is never going to go down,” Lalor said. “I would say we might be under-publicized, but I don’t think we’re overbuilt.”

A group of ladies playing bingo at Wheeler had their own theories about the recent departures.

Ethel Wells said a couple recently upgraded to Sunset Gardens, another senior housing community in Gilroy that offers larger rooms and allows pets.

Jessie Becerra said her son is trying to convince her to move to Las Vegas, but she and her bingo partners agree that they are comfortable in their current situation, at the side of their friends.

Becerra joked that there’s only one way she would leave Wheeler – “I’m going out feet first.”

Housing

• Wheeler Manor includes computer classes, case management services, tenant-based activities, birthday parties and a dinner social every two weeks. To learn more, call

847-5490 or visit www.scounty.com.

• To learn more about Plum Tree, call 847-2099.

Leave your comments