SHAG has grown its reputation for being successful and quirky senior living housing being at reasonable prices.
Sustainable Housing for Ageless Generations over the past three decades, the affordable premium housing non-profit organization based in Tukwila, Washington, has refined its model through innovative partnerships, streamlined staffing models, and mixed-use development. The community gets completely embedded in the overall community they are in. Today, SHAG’s product portfolio includes 26 communities in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, totaling nearly 6,000 units.
SHAG executive director Jay Woolford said at the recent BUILD conference held by Advanced Housing News that this model can be expanded and successfully used outside Puget Sound. However, the basis for success lies in the consistency of operator partnerships.
Since SHAG launched in 1988, it has been working with the same developers, designers, consultants, and construction teams. This consistency establishes vertical integration regarding site selection, rights, and housing and services at economical prices.
Residents benefit from lower price points and a better quality of life. Covid-19 has highlighted the critical areas of SHAG moving forward this year, like getting better technology integration into its community.
Woolford said: “This is something we deliberately focus on.” “It is based on the idea of networking with as many different organizations and institutions as possible.”
Niche Market Success
The target population of SHAG has always been the elderly, who now get regarded as the mid-market-middle-income people who cannot afford high-end housing at market prices but are not eligible for low-income subsidies.
A typical SHAG building is a low-rise five-story to the six-story podium, and the best location is between 180 and 200 units, although there are some outliers. One community has 450 units, while another community under development will have 400 units ready to move in for the first time. The resident profile comprises seniors over 62 years old who are still active and want to stay in this state-what Woolford calls the “light of independent life.” But the age range is vast, from disabled residents in the early 1950s to centenarians.
SHAG’s community is built on a website that encourages intergenerational life. These venues are located in densely populated areas near the Greater Seattle and Tacoma areas. They have some form of outdoor beautification or leisure activities to attract people outside the community, and several projects under development have multiple uses.
One of the Tukwila Villages in Tukwila is co-located with the branch of the King County Library. This co-location also supports innovative high-end housing in other parts of the country. Eventually, Tukwila’s village will include a community center that will house a local health organization and provide resources for residents and more people.
Simultaneously, a more streamlined staffing model requires resident service coordinators in each community to find solutions to provide the care and services that residents need as they age. Some of these solutions include getting state agencies to work in SHAG buildings and establishing partnerships with nursing schools and universities to provide on-site nurse training; providing nutrition, health, and fitness courses; and establishing intergenerational relationships.
Because SHAG does not hire event directors, the organization relies on residents to lead events and community participation. Most of its communities have residents committees and participating teams to determine activities and health plans supported by operators. A community may like the art plan, and the leadership will work with residents to establish a museum visit route. Sports-loving communities will accept chair exercise programs and yoga classes. This method provides residents with an agent of living within the community wall and leads to better health outcomes.
SHAG recently partnered with an organization and received a $500,000 grant to explore an evidence-based fitness program adjusted to address the interaction between trainers and residents due to the Covid-19 lock-in limit.
Another Covid-19 innovation implemented by SHAG is creating food storage rooms in all of its communities to provide residents with food. These get funded by investment and real estate partners, grants, and donations. To date, SHAG has raised $250,000.
Solving the middle market problem has become the pursuit of many owners, operators, and other senior life industry stakeholders. The upcoming baby boomer generation’s coming wave will bring a massive surge in demand for the community at this price point. However, it is difficult to strike the right balance between operational intensity, investor returns, and consumer appeal. Woolford believes that the SHAG model can be copied and extended elsewhere. However, this requires discipline and effort to find the right partner and establish a lasting working relationship.
To grow your business in the senior industry, Create a free profile on Senior GuidePost. The Industry’s premium resource for Senior communities to find Qualified vendors serving the Senior Industry.