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Church project to build apartment complex for senior citizens


After six years of frustration, Grace Episcopal Church broke ground yesterday for a senior citizen apartment complex in Elkridge.

Colonial Landing Apartments, a 100-unit building on Route 1 and Rowanberry Drive, will provide affordable housing for senior citizens starting next June, officials said. The project is being built by Shelter Development Corp. of Baltimore in partnership with the Elkridge church.

As part of the $5.5 million project, Elkridge Elder Ministries, a nonprofit group established by Grace Episcopal, will seek out other churches and community groups to help maintain the facility and provide transportation for residents, said the group's treasurer Robert Puppa.

"There is nothing in Howard County that provides housing for elderly people in the moderate- to lower-income levels," Mr. Puppa said. "What happens then is that these elders, who are on Social Security, have to move out of the area."

Senior citizens with incomes not exceeding $20,750 for one person or $23,700 for two occupants will be eligible for the housing. The apartments will cost renters about $400 a month, developers said.

The church last year had planned to develop the senior citizen housing project on another Elkridge site, the 17 acres of the former Elkridge Drive-In, with the drive-in land's owners Barry and Charu Mehta of Columbia. But Mr. Puppa said that deal "progressed too slowly."

And for five years before that, church leaders had been searching unsuccessfully for other churches to join them in developing the project.

Their partner, Shelter Development Corp., has built three similar housing projects in Baltimore County, one in Prince George's County and Carriage Run in the Village of Owen Brown.

Each apartment unit will have a kitchen and emergency pull-cords in the bedroom and bathroom. Patio seating and community rooms also will be in the complex.

"These houses fill a big need for senior citizens who don't have many other offerings of affordable housing," said Nora Vlahoyiannis, project manager for Shelter Development.

With Howard County's population of about 18,000 senior citizens expected to reach 25,000 within the next five years, officials in the county's Office on Aging say the need for housing will continue to grow.

Many senior citizens -- most of whom are widows -- often can't find housing because they didn't work early in their lives and are now dependent on their husband's Social Security or pension, said Vivian Reid, administrator for the county's Office on Aging. "The more senior citizens we have coming to the area, the more housing we will need . . . for these are people who are not ready to go into nursing homes, but who are out and active and in need of suitable housing," Ms. Reid said. "There's housing for those who are wealthy, but little offerings for those who are in good physical and mental condition, but in the lower income ranges."

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