Pathway to Living is finding success providing affordable senior housing on Chicago’s South Side.
The Chicago-based provider’s Victory Centre of South Chicago, in the city’s South Shore neighborhood, offers 112 studio apartments and provides supportive living services for residents, Pathway to Living Regional Director of Sales Kimberly Bevan told Senior Housing News during a recent visit to the community.
Victory Centre of South Chicago is 92% occupied and its residency is predominantly African-American and Hispanic, mirroring neighborhood population demographics compiled by the U.S. Census, Lifestyle Specialist Desirea Watson told SHN.
“This is the year we plan on fully occupying the building,” she said. The property first opened its doors in 2009.
The Victory Centre model is one example of how established senior living providers can bring more affordable housing options to less affluent metropolitan areas to meet high and growing demand, by tapping state-level resources and creating multi-brand portfolios.
Pathway to Living’s Victory Centres are a mix of private pay and Medicaid, Watson told SHN.
Rents are based on a percentage of a resident’s monthly income. In Illinois, supportive living communities are licensed by the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IHFS) and eligible for financial assistance for residents 65 and over.
Those who qualify for financial assistance can maintain their residences through state Medicaid funding, in the event their personal finances run out. Pathway to Living has 13 supportive living communities in its portfolio — 10 are Victory Centre locations, Bevan said.
Overall, Pathway to Living’s portfolio consists of 32 communities across the Midwest, totaling 2,900 units and seven brands. Last January, Chicago-based real estate investor and operator Waterton acquired a controlling stake in the company, and is looking to expand beyond the Midwest.
While the Victory Centre portion of the portfolio taps into some particular financing sources, it shares the VIVA! lifestyle model with other Pathway communities.
Victory Centre’s supportive living services are integrated into Pathway to Living’s VIVA! lifestyle programming, which focuses on a holistic approach to improving body, mind and spirit and, by extension, helping residents maintain their independence, Victory Centre of South Chicago Executive Director Anthony Shell told SHN.
Supportive living communities share many similarities with assisted living. At Victory Centre, staff provides maintenance, housekeeping, meals, medication oversight, personal care, nursing services, recreational and educational programming. But Victory Centre has a nurse on call seven days a week, which differentiates it from other supportive living communities, Watson said.
Changing views on affordable housing
The VIVA! Program is intended to change the way society views senior living, Bevan said. These resident-led programs offer a variety of social, educational and spiritual programs as well as the chance for people to share their skills, talents, and passions with others.
Victory Centre of South Chicago has a gardening club where residents choose vegetables to grow. Those vegetables are then used in the community kitchen and its cooking club. The VIVA! World Tour program gives residents the opportunity to explore other cultures and countries through language lessons, arts and crafts, and music.
The first floor houses a senior center, dining room, spa and living area where residents can mingle. Each level of the five-story building has a themed resident lounge where residents can relax. Victory Center has a partnership with an adjacent senior center, allowing residents to use its fitness rooms for exercise or physical therapy.
The all-studio apartment layout is unique to Victory Centre of Chicago, Bevan told SHN. Other communities have a mix of studios, alcoves (mini-one bedroom units), one-bedroom and shared companion units — apartments with a joining door typically to accommodate a couple.
Changing the views on senior living extends to job descriptions and titles, as well. Sales managers at Victory Centre are “lifestyle specialists.” Nursing staff are “wellness staff.” All staff are trained to take visitors on tours, and employees receive annual raises and are afforded opportunities for professional growth, Shell told SHN.
“We want our staff to treat our residents as they would treat their own family,” he said.
Developing affordable housing has slowed in recent years. Developers have focused on building market-rate senior housing in high-density urban areas, resulting in pent-up demand for affordable senior housing in low-density areas of the country. competition for tax credits and incentives.
Meanwhile, low-income senior housing models such as housing-plus-services which could be scaled to meet demand, lack non-Medicare and Medicaid payment models to finance the services.
If a private payment model to fund services can be established, Victory Centre’s supportive living model can serve as a blueprint for success with other providers.
Want to learn more about multi-brand strategies in senior living? Click here to access Senior Housing News’ deep-dive report on the topic.