Washington Avenue Apartments sprout up in Albert Lea

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, March 1, 2009

A new low-income senior living apartment building has been built in town.

The apartments, named Washington Avenue Apartments, are located at 608 S. Washington Ave.

The apartments are owned by Accessible Space Inc., a Minnesota-based nonprofit. The company also has similar properties in other areas of the state as well as North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Texas and Wyoming, according to its Web site.

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Ken Berry, director of property management for Accessible Space Inc., said one of the reasons the company decided to come to Albert Lea is because it is trying to expand its housing in southern Minnesota. The company already has housing in Owatonna, Rochester, Austin, Worthington, Sioux Falls and Marshall, he said.

Accessible Space got support from the city and community programs such as Senior Resources of Freeborn County, the Freeborn County Department of Human Services and SEMCAC and had them write letters of support to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD provides the primary funding for construction of the apartments as well as rental assistance according to the section 202 program which provides housing for seniors 62 and over. This allows Accessible Space to charge an affordable rent, Berry said. The company also got a good deal from the city on the land.

“They sold us the land for a very affordable price. They sold it for $1,” Berry said.

After Accessible Space got the funding they requested from HUD, construction began on the apartments on Feb. 23, 2008. They were finished by the end of December.

Berry said the apartments provide an option for seniors so they can maintain independence but downsize in their hometown.

The apartments are for seniors age 62 and older and there is an income limit. A one person household can make up to $19,850 in annual gross income per year. A two-person household can make up to $22,700 annual gross income per year. This limit is what HUD define as very low income. “Many of our senior residents are living fully off of social security benefits, so they need rental assistance to live,” Berry said. The rent for an apartment is 30 percent of their adjusted gross monthly income. This includes heat, water, snow removal and trash. Residents have an allowance for electric.

The two story building has 22 one-bedroom apartments, with wheelchair accessible apartments available. Each apartment is 540 square feet. There is a also a laundry facilities on each floor, a community room with kitchen facilities and computer station and an outdoor patio with a gas grill.

As of mid-December, Berry and Devin Vander Schaaf, the marketing specialist with Accessible Space, Inc. said the apartments were about half full and they still had apartments available with wheel chair access. Berry expects most of the residents to be able to move into their apartments in February and March.

These apartments have created one new job in Albert Lea. The job is a on-site care taker position, which provides support for management, does janitorial duties and works with residents as they move in. Berry and Vander Schaaf said they were interviewing for this position in December.

Berry and Vander Schaaf said they also plan to have the apartments involved with the community. They hope to have home delivered meal programs for the seniors as well as have diabetes clinics, blood pressure checks and transportation.