Age-qualified condo developments in urban areas are catching on with the 50-plus crowd, according to members of the National Association of Home Builders‘ Seniors Housing Council. While seniors still prefer site-built single-family attached and detached homes, senior housing developments are a growing trend.

“Many active adults want to be near a town center in a community with a diverse product mix of condominiums, villas and single-family detached homes,” said Mark Stemen, president of K. Hovnanian Homes’ active adult division in Chantilly, Va. “The idea of leaving the active adult community to walk to shops and be involved in the greater community appeals to many of them.”

The service-enriched side of the industry, which includes independent living and assisted living, has experienced major changes – among the hottest trends for the service-enriched industry was the demand for communities in mid- to high-rise buildings in dense urban settings, according to the NAHB announcement.

And while the overall housing market has boomed in the Sun Belt states – those typically sunny locations that stretch from Florida to California – there is a different trend among housing developments built for seniors.

“Builders seem to be building small or midsize communities and more of them in close-to-home locations,” said Bill Parks, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market researcher and a juror for NAHB’s Best of Seniors Housing Awards Committee. “Almost three-quarters of the active adult communities built in 2004 were in states outside the Sun Belt. This is a trend that will continue to gain momentum.”

“In the past, builders created communities that were far from the urban core,” said Richard Rosen, a Silver Spring, Md.-based architect and chairman of the 2005 Best of Seniors Housing Awards Committee. “Placing seniors in greenfield sites away from the city or even their former suburban neighborhoods doesn’t meet the needs of today’s buyers. They want to take advantage of the city’s offerings as well as maintain contact with family and friends, attend their places of worship and continue to work.”

Rosen said that builders are adding features like stepless entries, wider doorways and other features in units, as well as providing more space in the kitchen and bath – this concept is known as “universal design” because it is easy for all people to use. “It appears that universal design is becoming part of the mainstream,” he said.

The latest architectural, design and marketing trends in senior housing were featured during a 2005 Best of Seniors Housing Awards ceremony held Jan. 13 in conjunction with the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla. For more information about the Best of Seniors Housing Awards, call the NAHB Seniors Housing Council at (800) 368-5242, ext. 8220. NAHB, a trade association for homebuilding and related industries, has about 220,000 members.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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