Senior Development Bridges New Housing and Health Connections


Hotel Oakland Village is more than an affordable place to live. For the nearly 400 residents, almost all monolingual Chinese seniors, it’s their safety net.

Located in one of the nation’s priciest housing markets, the development fills an important need in Oakland, Calif., a role that Bill Langelier, principal partner in Hotel Oakland Associates, wants to ensure will last for years to come.

To do that, Langelier recently worked with Prudential Mortgage Capital Co. and Fannie Mae to refinance a loan to improve the Sec. 8 property’s long-term financial position as well as enhance the resident services at the community.

“In 2011, we introduced the concept of a village to the residents,” says Langelier. “Our primary goal was to fight the negative health impact of social isolation. It is the 1,000-pound gorilla in the room. Unfortunately, most affordable senior communities are not addressing it the way we are, which is in a very aggressive formal way.”

He tapped into the need for residents to participate in activities, particularly those that aimed to improve their health. “The first benefit was getting them out of their apartments,” Langelier says. “The second benefit was focusing them on their health.”

The effort has grown into 15 managed health groups that encourage residents to be active. More than 80% of the residents have participated in the groups, which cover a range of topics and activities, including healthy eating, personal safety, and dance.

Hotel Oakland Village is also home to the Hong Fook adult services center, which assists frail elderly and adults with disabilities to live independently. About 80 residents use the center. Operated by nonprofit Family Bridges, the center features a “nurse navigator” and a “health and wellness connections director” to work with residents. There is no charge for Medi-Cal eligible participants and a sliding scale fee for private-pay individuals.

Built in 1912, Hotel Oakland Village was originally an upscale hotel with a guest list that included Franklin D. Roosevelt and several other presidents before becoming a military hospital in the 1940s. After being vacant for almost 15 years, the property was converted to affordable housing around 1979.

Langelier has been a partner in the ownership since the building became affordable housing and has steered the property through several improvement projects. Not long after the big Loma Prieta earthquake hit the Bay Area in 1989, the team performed $12 million in seismic improvements to the property. The apartments were then upgraded around 2010, so the building is in good shape.

However, Langelier decided it was time to refinance his loan. “I wanted to be in a position if there was an earthquake, I would have a bit of a war chest to deal with that,” he says. The property is covered by insurance, but there is still a significant deductible.

“We needed to be in position that we have resources to deal with that deductible,” says Langelier.

Working with Prudential on the refinancing, Langelier sought a long-term fixed-rate solution. The team zeroed in on a Fannie Mae loan, according to Kenji Tamaoki, a principal at Prudential, a Fannie Mae Delegated and Underwriting Servicing lender.

The refinancing provided the borrower with a better interest rate and an opportunity to expand the services offered at the development.

“The property is truly unique in the amount of space it has for services,” says Tamaoki. “… What happened after we closed the financing is [Langelier] introduced new programs where there’s a much closer connection between the social services and the tenants.”

Hotel Oakland is a prime example of a property that’s reinvesting in its residents, according to Bob Simpson, vice president of the affordable, green, and small loan business at Fannie Mae.

Many of Fannie Mae’s loans involve rehabbing properties. Hotel Oakland is unique because it was looking to improve the health-care component of the development.

“We’ve found there’s a strong connection between affordable housing, especially for very low- and low-income renters, and support services,” Simpson says. “There’s such a connection between health, well-being, neighborhood stability, and affordable housing. When we have the opportunity to provide financing to borrowers who are really looking to strengthen that connection, we want to do it.”

Residents at Sec. 8 properties like Hotel Oakland pay just 30% of any income they receive toward rent. That’s important in helping them afford housing and being financially stable.

“It gives you a better chance to further improve the quality of your life, but we think there are other aspects to that as well,” Simpson says. “The health component at Hotel Oakland is an example of one of those things.”

 

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