CFFA Helps Bring Senior Housing to Knox County

Like nearly every community in Ohio, Knox County needs additional housing for all income levels and age demographics. Columbus-Franklin County Finance Authority is partnering with Lemmon Development, Knox County, the Knox County Area Development Foundation (ADF) and the City of Mount Vernon to add new senior housing options to the area. 

Construction is now underway on Danbury Senior Living. The project is sited on a 5.5-acre parcel on Venture Drive in Mount Vernon. Expected to be completed by Spring 2022, the senior living campus will include an 81-unit residential building and seven independent living villas. When industry-wide rising costs of labor and materials threatened the project, the developer contacted CFFA for assistance with a capital lease structure to reduce construction-material costs. The transaction was approved quickly, helping the project align with the summer 2021 construction season.

“The capital lease financing went about as smoothly as it could have,” said ADF President Jeffrey Gottke. “And that’s a credit to the Finance Authority’s organization and knowledge.” Gottke estimates it took less than two months to complete the additional funding, which allowed the project to recover from construction delays. 

“We like this project for a lot of reasons,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Matt Starr recently. “We need senior living, and as seniors leave their homes in the city limits and move into a villa or the main unit, that opens their home for people to move into.” This process of in-filling, says Starr, fits Knox County’s comprehensive plan for making better use of existing housing versus additional development. “It also provides us with greater density per square foot within the city limits, because there’s only so much developable land in the city limits.” He added that Danbury will create nearly 90 good-paying, skilled- jobs, and tax revenue will feed the city’s nearby TIF district. (View more of Starr’s comments, including his thoughts on the project’s support of utility upgrades.)  

The project is yet another example of CFFA reaching beyond Franklin Country to assist regional development efforts. “When there’s a need, we’re happy to serve the unique port authority role when the home county port authority lacks bonding or capital lease capacity.  Our experienced team worked with Knox County and the Knox County Area Development Foundation,  making the process very efficient,” said CFFA President Jean Carter Ryan. “We’ve worked with Lemmon Development successfully in Franklin County in the past and are currently engaged with them on an infrastructure project in a nearby county.” 

“We are willing to help move projects forward in other counties.  It’s just a function of knowing where there is need,” Ryan continued.

The Danbury project will bring a variety of senior options to the market. The residential building will be licensed as a Residential Care Facility (RCF) servicing independent-living residents, assisted-living residents, and those requiring assistance with Alzheimer’s and dementia conditions (memory care).

“We were impressed with the speed and efficiency CFFA brought to the table,” said Lemmon Development President, Tony Perez. “We always look forward to opportunities to work with Jean and her team.” 

The need for senior housing

The aging population in Ohio continues to grow. According to a 2021 Housing Needs Assessment by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, demographers predict the percentage of Ohioans over the age of 55 will peak by 2030 at 30 percent of the population. Most seniors live alone, and one out of every nine Ohio households (more than half a million) house a single adult age 65 or older. 

Maintaining the cost and upkeep of a home can be challenging for these residents. And it’s estimated that of Ohioans aged 55 to 64, more than a quarter face a severe rent burden. For those aged 65 to 74, about 20 percent do. Senior living options such as Danbury begin to alleviate these challenges.