Senior Plaza opening |

Senior Plaza opening

With balloons bobbing and the scent of new building still lingering in the hallways, tenants and staff celebrated the Tahoe Senior Plaza grand opening Friday.

The Plaza is the first affordable housing complex for senior citizens in the basin. Every apartment unit is occupied and 50 applicants are on the waiting list for future vacancies.

The cedar building, a handsome structure with a rustic alpine design, contains 45 one-bedroom apartments, each complete with kitchen, bathroom and living room.

“I love it, it’s quiet and the building is beautiful,” said tenant Jerry Brown who moved to South Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area three years ago. “I’m getting a lot more space for a lot less money. The waiting list for affordable senior housing down in San Francisco was eight years, so I’m really happy.”

To qualify for Senior Plaza housing, applicants have to be 62 or older and earn less than $18,000 a year, said Patrick Conway, city housing coordinator. Tenant selection began last October.

“We had 119 people respond and then conducted a lottery at the Senior Center to select the 45 tenants,” Conway said. “There are still people waiting to get in, but they’ll have to wait until units become available.”

Rent for the apartments is based on 30 percent of the tenant’s income.

“Typically, these seniors are on fixed incomes, so we’re seeing rent ranging from $150 to $300,” Conway said. “The project has rental assistance from (United States Housing and Urban Development), guaranteed for the next five years. That makes up the difference in housing costs for what the tenants aren’t able to pay.”

After the first five years of HUD support, the agreement will very likely be renewed, Conway added.

“There’s no anticipation that support would not be continued, it would be very hard politically for Congress not to continue funding projects like this,” he said.

Each unit was built to meet American Disability Act requirements and, although designed for one person, can easily accommodate two.

“It’s certainly comparable to anything in the housing market,” said Construction Manager Suzanne Saucier. “It’s considered independent living, the bottom line is you have to be able to live by yourself but we try to make it as easy as possible.”

Elevators, grab-bars, sliding doors, emergency nurse alarms, braille and fire detectors equipped with large flashing lights meet many of the needs of the elderly and disabled.

At present, according to Conway, affordable housing in the city of South Lake Tahoe includes the 70-unit Sierra Garden Apartments, the 96-unit Chateau Bijou Apartments, the 28-unit Tahoe Pines and the 70-unit Tahoe Valley Town Homes.

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