Warren City Council is wisely taking its time before voting on a zone change for a senior citizen housing complex. But more important than concerns over the complex's location should be what Council can do to rehabilitate vacant homes in the city.
Clover Management Inc., of Williamsville, N.Y., which has senior housing developments in New York and Pennsylvania, proposes a 120-unit senior apartment development on eight acres at 907 North Road. The complex would have a large community room, patio, library, and hair and beauty salons. Single bedroom apartments would rent for $795 a month, and two bedrooms would rent for $905 per month.
Clover assured residents at a recent public hearing that this is not subsidized housing.
Council previously lowered the age requirement from 62 years old to 55 years old in senior citizens multi-family districts. Council must now consider whether the acreage along North Road shall be one of the districts.
Residents expressed concern over Clover's background, increased traffic in the neighborhood near North Road Intermediate School and the potential to improve developed neighborhoods closer to downtown rather than build on green space. City leaders and Clover owe residents adequate answers to their questions about the developer's reputation and traffic.
The points about re-filling vacant homes, in-filling vacant lots and bolstering residential use near downtown are all good ones. Using existing structures rather than green space should be a priority.
But ultimately housing must be built where people want to reside. While a Clover spokesman cited a lack of acreage near downtown, we're pretty certain that there's more to the story. If people really wanted to live in the older neighborhoods, developers would certainly find a way to capitalize on that demand.
As it clears the way for building new, Council should spend some time addressing what needs to be done to draw future housing projects to existing neighborhoods, especially in and around downtown. Crime and road conditions are probably two primary obstacles.
Before the first senior moves into Clover's proposed North Road project, the city should devise ways to refill the vacant houses. Plans to accommodate seniors' residential needs should be accompanied plans to attract the next generation of homeowners.