For the Express
NORTHVILLE -- The Sacandaga Task Force for Senior Living is gaining momentum to build a low-income senior housing complex in the heart of the village.
The task force formed eight years ago with a single goal in mind: to make living in and around the Northville area more accommodating for senior citizens. The group has since established a meal site, and transportation and handyman services, and is slowly working toward its goal of establishing senior housing in Northville.
STFSL President Jim Conkling says the organization secured a plot of land on S. First St. in February that's large enough for eight to 12 one-bedroom housing units.
Conkling estimates the complex would cost $1.3 million. However, STFSL has only between $20,000 and $30,000 in its account, some of which is earmarked for the organization's programs.
"When we got started, we would talk about the type of senior housing we wanted," Northville resident and STFSL member Mary Ann Evans said. "Turned out that getting money for a small project for a town like this is almost impossible."
"Impossible," however, is not a word Conkling uses to describe the effort. The group has held some fundraisers, and is working with Omni Housing Development in Albany on a proposal for a housing grant to present to the New York State Office of Community Renewal.
Omni is currently part of a larger initiative to build roughly 136 low-income senior housing units in areas across the Adirondack Park, including Lake Placid, Canton, Alexandria Bay and now Northville.
"Together, there are enough units to justify the expenditure, in the eyes of investors and in the eyes of New York state government," Conkling said.
He believes there is a bias against senior housing complexes in the Adirondacks because officials don't see how they would benefit the local economy.
Mayor John Spaeth says Northville has a large senior population, and in that regard, he sees how senior housing would benefit the community. However, he is not certain what financial impact a low-income senior housing complex would have on the village.
He said a10- to 12-unit senior housing complex might move roughly five people out of their homes in Northville and the rest would come from outside the village, which does not free up a lot of space in Northville's housing market.
Additionally, Spaeth said low-income senior housing does not invite the kind of clientele that spends a lot of money in the community. He is also wary about the affect the housing would have on the village's Medicaid funding.
"Well, certainly, people that aren't able to keep up in their individual homes, it's nice to attract them to the area," Spaeth said. "But I'm struggling with the overall benefit for the village."
Conkling believes otherwise. He pointed to demographics.
A 2012 U.S. Census Bureau survey found 17 percent of Fulton County's population is at least 65 years old. However, Conkling said, the closest senior housing complex is Gloversville's Petoff Gardens.
The hope is the proposal will entice older residents from different communities to move to and invest their money in the village.
"The Adirondacks are dying and what they are growing is old people," Conkling said. "Around Sacandaga Lake you see 'For Sale' sign after 'For Sale' sign. We need to help seniors make those sales and bring younger people in here."
Conkling and Evans say there are a host of social benefits as well.
Conkling said seniors reach a point where they are physically unable to maintain the aesthetics of a home and take care of other ownership responsibilities.
Without a senior living facility in the community, they are forced to move out of the area. Conkling said moving away accelerates a community's deterioration.
"They are a real target for senior housing because they don't want to leave their church or friends," Evans said.