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Missouri Valley seniors angry over large rent increase in independent living homes

Here's what it has to do with flooding
Millie Broughton
Posted at 5:52 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 19:16:21-04

MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa (KMTV) — Millie Broughton is packing up her things.

The Missouri Valley, Iowa senior has lived in a townhome there since it opened in 2015. But now, she's wrapping up a move.

Broughton's rent was $850. But a jump to $1200 was not something she was willing to stick around for. She says she was originally told her new rent cost would be $1500.

She estimates she's the fourth to move out of the group of 10 townhomes. She was able to find a spot at low-income housing in town.

The notice of the rent increase came after new management came in the spring: Azria Health Longview. Azria Health has long-term care facilities across Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.

The rate for new tenants will be $1500, an Azria Health representative said. But current residents are being offered to be grandfathered in at $1200 a month.

Azria Health Longview told 3 News Now Investigators that they're adding new amenities, including new meal options, events, and transportation to an aquatic center.

The two bed, two bath units also include all utilities paid for, Regional Director of Operations Lindsey Pihlgren said.

"The other senior living options in Missouri Valley that rent at a lower cost do not in any way compare to the townhomes on the Azria Health Longview Campus," the director said in an email.

The fact that the townhomes were built through an Iowa Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery project also seems to play a big role.

The townhomes were built out of a grant worth $1.6 million that intends to support housing in areas impacted by flooding.

The grant also included a temporary "affordability period" to open the units, Iowa Economic Development Authority spokesperson Kanan Kappelman said. Pihlgren said that period expired last year, five years after they opened.

Kappelman said it's not always the case that rent increases after the period is over.

"Other communities, with limited rental inventory, do see increases, as these units are often the newest/nicest units in the market," Kappelman wrote.

"The goal of the Post-Disaster New Construction housing projects is to provide clean, quality, affordable housing...The investment in clean, quality housing, helps alleviate Iowa’s large housing deficiency overall, even after the affordability period is over."

Evelyn and Gerald Marshall face a similar increase.

"We started looking for a house real quick," she said. A mortgage would be stable, unlike rent, she said.

But they're not willing to look outside Missouri Valley, as Gerald, a World War II veteran, has lived his 98 years in the town. That, along with a loan limit and accessibility requirements, makes it more difficult, Evelyn said.

She says the tenants are being asked to pay a price not fit for a small town like Missouri Valley.

"It's gonna be a matter of pay rent or eat," Evelyn said. "And we've got a lot of meds."

Azria Health Longview statement, Regional Director of Operations Lindsey Pihlgren:

"The independent living townhomes on the campus of Azria Health Longview were newly built in 2015 and offer some of the most beautiful and well-designed independent living units in Missouri Valley and beyond. We are very proud of these townhomes and consider them a wonderful option for those in our greater community.

The rental prices for the townhomes were kept at fixed, low-market rates for the initial 5 years of its existence as part of the funding agreement which came from a Iowa Community Development Block grant following the 2008 Missouri River flooding. However, in order to continue providing the best experience and care for our residents on campus, we have made recent market adjustments to the townhomes, while still adding new amenities including but not limited to, new meal options, activities, classes, and events, as well as transportation to the new aquatic center. We are working with of our residents during this adjustment period, and are assisting those who need possible income based adjustments to keep rent at a level they can afford.

Ensuring our residents are receiving the best in quality care is the top priority at Azria Health Longview."

Iowa Economic Development Authority statement, Kanan Kappelman:

"Increases or changes in rent after the term of affordability vary widely across the state based on many market factors. We’ve seen communities where the 65% HOME rates are at or above market so the rates don’t see much change after the affordability period expires. Other communities, with limited rental inventory, do see increases, as these units are often the newest/nicest units in the market.

The goal of the Post-Disaster New Construction housing projects is to provide clean, quality, affordable housing. While the affordability period ensures that for a specific amount of time, the investment in clean, quality housing, helps alleviate Iowa’s large housing deficiency overall, even after the affordability period is over."

AARP Iowa statement, State Director Brad Anderson:

"Housing affordability is a key building block for people to age successfully and remain in their communities. Housing is the largest household budget item for most Americans, whether they are homeowners or renters. 50+ Iowans should not have to choose between affording their home and paying for everyday things like food, transportation, and healthcare. An expiring Iowa grant and new management are no excuses for the older Iowans in Missouri Valley to be at risk of losing their safe and affordable place to live.”

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