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Homes for grand-givers

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

More than 2.5 million grandparents head households that include their grandchildren, according to the 2010 Census.

This retirement planning trend has captured the attention of investors nationwide, and the result is the debut of rental housing aimed at grandparent-headed families.

For instance, there's Pemberton Park, a 36-unit two-, three- and four-bedroom apartment complex in Kansas City, Mo., limited to people 55 and older who are raising young children. Brian Collins, senior associate with Cougar Capital, a developer of affordable housing in the Midwest, including Pemberton Park, says that to qualify for residency, grandparents must have applied for permanent custody of their grandchildren, and they must receive it within a year of moving in. This policy was instituted, Collins says, because it ensures greater family -- and rental -- stability. While the units are not strictly low-income, Collins says most of the residents qualify for some housing assistance.

Besides offering apartments that are larger than usual, Pemberton Park has three times more common space than the typical apartment, Collins says. These spaces include a school project room, a  computer lab, and a grandparents lounge where kids aren't allowed.

Collins says that one of the things residents appreciate and remark about is the tranquility of the place. "Grandparents here watch out for each other's children," he says. "We've had very few problems over the three years that the complex has been open."

"Grand-givers are changing the market for retirement living," says certified public accountant David Kessler, national director of commercial real estate for accounting firm CohnReznick. Kessler says his firm has helped several of these kinds of projects get off the ground. Recently it aided a church group in New York City, in securing funding for a 53-unit grandparent project.

This kind of investment in retirement planning is attractive for investors, Kessler says, because it fills a need and reflects a growing demographic trend. And investors make money. These housing projects are very stable, he says, because "The residents of these types of properties tend to stay a long time."

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