For older residents seeking affordable senior housing in Cedar Park or Leander, potential options often include specialized health care options or long waitlists.

One of those options is Leander Station Senior Village, which offers senior apartments for residents age 55 and older at its location on Hero Way West. Renee Johns, the assistant manager of the property, said there are more than 500 people on the waitlist for an apartment.

“As far as our waitlist, they could wait anywhere from six months to maybe three, four, five years out,” she said. 

Area experts say long waitlists are fairly common for senior-specific properties around Central Texas, and the trend will likely increase with a growing senior population.

According to projections from the Texas Demographic Center, the population in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Williamson, Travis, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties, is expected to increase 65.5 percent between 2017 and 2050. The senior population, which is defined as age 65 and older, is expected to increase by 227.2 percent in the same time.

The trend will be even more prominent in Williamson County. The total county population could increase by 98.6 percent in that time frame, while the senior population is expected to grow by 317.7 percent by 2050.

With rising senior population, housing remains key issueThe demand for senior properties in Central Texas has spurred more housing options, such as assisted-living centers, nursing homes and memory care facilities, said Rob Faubion, a spokesperson for AGE of Central Texas, which provides adult day health care and education for caregivers. He said these types of specialized senior facilities are increasing in Cedar Park and Leander, but there is still a lack of  housing options for seniors who do not yet need specialized care.

“For people who can’t afford that level of care or are not at that point where they need that level of care—they just need a safe community, a roof over their head and a place to keep all of their possessions—there are not that many options for them,” he said.

The demand for senior housing
Virginia Larson, a liaison for Austin nonprofit Family Eldercare, which offers programs and guidance to help seniors, said seniors are choosing to move into the regions around Austin. 

“[Cedar Park and Leander] are growing in younger families, but then they’re realizing that they need to take care of their loved ones that are aging, so they’re bringing them here to care for them,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a shortage of seniors at all.”

Larson said several older residents already living in Central Texas can hit stumbling blocks with their homes. Physical problems can make it harder to care for a house, and some seniors are no longer able to afford their home.

Faubion said some people are drawn to independent-living facilities because of the community aspect and the amenities geared toward seniors.

One independent senior-living option planned is Solea Cedar Park, a resort-style multifamily community for adults age 55 and older. The development is planned to open on Juliette Way in Cedar Park in November.

As of Aug. 1, there were 40 people on the list to reserve one of the 184 planned units, and the list has been growing, said Luke Bourlon, a partner with Sparrow Partners, the project’s developer.

Bourlon said Sparrow Partners wanted the senior development to be in Cedar Park because it is a growing region.

“We think there’s a lot of seniors that are moving to Austin from out of the state or out of the city just because of all the attractions that Austin brings, and there’s a lot of people in the Cedar Park area that want to stay in their community that they’ve been in for years but want to leave the maintenance of a homeownership lifestyle behind,” he said. 

Another age 55 and older restricted independent-living community, Hawthorn Retirement, is also planned along Juliette Way in Cedar Park, according to the city. Skye Luxury Senior Living, which offers apartments for residents age 55 and older, also opened on Hero Way West in Leander in July.

Faubion said the demand for these types of communities is high, though he said AGE of Central Texas sees an even higher need for affordable options.

The Round Rock Housing Authority maintains several affordable housing properties within Round Rock, and executive director Cecilia Prieto said last year the authority received more than 1,200 applications in four days when its waitlist opened.

“That’s a good indicator of how bad the need is in the area,” Faubion said.

Need for affordability
Some housing complexes can receive tax credits in exchange for keeping units below market rate, and some comply with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to offer some of their units at a lower rate for those who qualify. To be considered, eligible residents must earn less annually than the median family income in the area. According to The Austin Tenants' Council, the median income in the Austin-Round Rock metro is $57,000 for a one-person household.

Some of Leander Station's apartments are designated for residents earning 30 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent and 80 percent of the median income. Johns said the apartments for those who make less than 30 percent of the median income are not available often.

“That waiting list, we don’t have much movement for that designation, meaning we don’t have many apartments come available under that
[30 percent] designation that we’re able to call on the waitlist for,” she said. “There’s people on there from way back when we first opened in 2011.”

There are two low-income senior independent communities in Leander and one in Cedar Park. When those properties are full, Faubion said some seniors will turn to low-income apartment complexes that are geared toward the general population, but those often have long waitlists as well.

With an overall increase in property taxes in Central Texas, Faubion said seniors are getting priced out of their homes and moving into rural counties where there can be a lack of resources.

“Those are issues we are seeing more and more in the community, and the lack of affordable housing just amplifies the issues that seniors are encountering.”

With rising senior population, housing remains key issueResponding to the demand
Faubion said he has seen a growing number of specialized senior communities growing in the region, especially in the past two years in Williamson County.

“For me it seems like every week I have another ribbon cutting to attend because there are so many that are opening, and they are filling up,” he said. “Obviously the industry is growing.”

He said the need is now more focused on senior independent housing, and some developers are getting on board.

“There are not that many options for them, but we have seen that developers are paying attention to that, and that it can be a profit model for them,” he said.

One low-income senior apartment complex, The Hills at Leander, plans to  break ground in the first half of 2018. Ina Spokas, a representative with KCG Development, LLC, the project's developer, said the company chose its location  because of market studies and area needs and has already received phone calls from interested future residents.

“There’s not that many senior-specific living options available in general,” she said. “Senior [projects] are always great for growing communities because as people move there, they want their parents to live closer to them and their children.”

Another affordable housing development, Leander Place, was not selected to receive housing tax credits through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in August, but it is now on the waitlist for credits. Officials from Picerne Development Corp. of Florida, the Leander Place developer, did not respond to requests for comment.

Faubion said more developers and elected officials have started to see the need for these types of senior housing developments, but as of now, Central Texas is still behind the curve.

“It’s going to take some really aggressive action to get ahead of it and to be prepared for that kind of [population] growth,” he said. 

With rising senior population, housing remains key issue