Genesis Building A New Idea

GRAND RAPIDS — The Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corp. has plans to build a different type of residence for seniors, one that will be positioned between independent and assisted living.

The 44-unit apartment complex will be called Heron Manor and, if everything goes right, will be built on 22 acres that Genesis owns on Leonard Street NE called Heron Highland.

“It will have 24-hour staff and will have available enhanced support. It will have personal care aides, three meals a day, personal laundry, personal activities, but these will be full-scale apartments that people will live in and live as independently as they can,” said Harold Mast, executive director of Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corp.

The idea behind the project is to help seniors stay out of a nursing home. Genesis isn’t likely to license Heron Manor because it probably won’t meet all the licensing requirements of a home for the aged or an adult foster care residence.

“But it’s going to provide a lot more enhanced supports than a non-licensed facility. It’s going to be kind of in between. It will give elderly individuals another option other than a nursing home,” said Mast, who added that there would be three different levels of services available to residents, depending on their needs.

Genesis evolved from a partnership made between the Inner City Christian Federation, Dwelling Place Inc. and Hope Network and is in the business of providing housing for low-income individuals. And as Mast pointed out, unlike their high-income counterparts, low-income seniors aren’t able to pay for a privately owned assisted-living residence.

“The only option they have, other than living in their home with community-based waivers, is to go into a nursing home. (Our project) gives those individuals an option to live less expensively and as independently as possible in a facility that is short of a nursing home,” said Mast, who is also a Kent County commissioner.

Mast said the Genesis project follows what the state has asked for, namely finding housing alternates for seniors outside of institutional care. Heron Manor will give these individuals an opportunity to reside in an apartment. But to make that vision a reality Genesis has to find at least $6 million to build Heron Manor, and Mast said he is actively seeking those funds from local, state and federal sources.

The city has given Genesis a small amount to help get the project started and Mast has submitted an application for a Section 202 grant with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Section 202 grants are geared to the type of project that Genesis has decided to undertake and are intended to help nonprofit developers with such tasks.

“HUD is encouraging private nonprofit developers to put forward applications to serve low-income people. For a single person, that’s probably $20,000 a year or less,” said Mast.

Another funding source Mast is looking into is the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which has tax-exempt bonds available for projects such as this one. Mast said MSHDA, like HUD, has encouraged nonprofits to get involved with its program when it comes to providing housing for low-income individuals.

“Probably about half will be funded by tax-exempt bonds, a 5 to 5.5 percent bond over 40 years,” he said.

Mast also has applied for a grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation because that organization has already identified finding housing for low-income residents as one of its top priorities. He plans to also look into the Federal Home Loan Bank for funds.

“There will probably be four or five different sources of money,” he said.

Heron Manor will be the third facility Genesis has built on Heron Highland. Heron Courtyard Apartments, a residence for people with disabilities, and Heron Woods Apartments, which is market-rate housing for seniors, are already there. When Heron Manor opens, about 13 of the 22 acres that comprise Heron Highland will be left in its natural state.

DeStigter and Smith, a local architectural firm, has designed Heron Manor. Genesis hopes to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the apartment house next spring or summer.

“We’re kind of creating a new option. For a small organization like ours it’s a little bit risky and a little bit scary, so we have to go about it carefully,” said Mast.

“But this is the future of caring for older adults in less restrictive and less institutional settings. We want to be there.”    

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