Even before a new senior housing community in Elk Grove was complete, Eric and Avilla Hayman had signed up to live there.
"We were very excited," said Avilla Hayman, 64. "We were just waiting for the building to be built."
The building, Vintage at Laguna II, is Elk Grove's newest offering in a bustling market: affordable apartment-style living for low- and moderate-income elderly people.
The 69-unit community at Laguna and Big Horn boulevards has one- and two-bedroom apartments for active seniors 55 years and older. It was completed despite the disappearance of state redevelopment funds, instead subsidized by the city with money earmarked for low-income housing.
"Housing for seniors in general is in demand," said Elk Grove City Councilman Gary Davis. "Seniors on fixed incomes have an especially hard time finding good housing."
The community is the second one built in Elk Grove by USA Properties Fund, a for-profit developer of affordable housing based in Roseville. USA already developed and owns the adjacent Vintage at Laguna, a 158-unit senior community that opened in 2005.
Both developments have brisk leasing rates, said Geoff Brown, president of USA Properties. The first community is consistently sold-out, and the second one, which opened Sept. 1, is 85 percent leased and 65 percent occupied, he said.
Residents must earn between 30 percent and 60 percent of the median income for Sacramento County. Rents range from $383 for a one-bedroom apartment to $973 for a two-bedroom unit, depending on the resident's income.
The senior housing sector, especially for affordable units, is only going to get more active, as the U.S. population lives longer and baby boomers age, Brown said.
"Every 8 seconds, there's someone in the nation turning 65," he said. "And that will be true for the next 17 years. The demographic for senior housing is going to be huge going forward. The challenge will be to create enough housing to meet demand, especially in California, where we lost redevelopment funding."
The city of Elk Grove gave USA Properties a low-interest loan of $5.6 million to build the $13.4 million project, because it helps the city achieve its state-mandated affordable housing goals, adds jobs and generates some pizzazz at a former weedy lot in the heart of a thriving commercial district. The rest of the funding included the sale of tax credits and tax-exempt bonds to investors.
Part of the site's allure for senior housing is easy access to stores, restaurants, banks and several medical groups, Brown said. A Saturday morning farmers market is across the street, and two eTrans bus stops are in walking distance.
"Any time you have a high-quality project that serves the needs of a segment of our population, and it's a walkable neighborhood and an infill development, it's a good thing," Davis said, adding that residents will likely support local businesses.
The three-story, Spanish-style building has solar panels, and the units have energy-efficient appliances, tankless water heaters, dual-paned windows and ceiling fans.
The Haymans enjoy the community's common room and patio and the proximity to shops and restaurants.
"We love the location," said Eric Hayman, 63, a disabled veteran. "It's close to Highway 99, it's convenient to walk across the street for our groceries, and we feel very safe."