Opinion by JoAnn Schuch
As a volunteer and board member of Life Plan Humboldt (LPH) it is always great to get questions about the new senior community we are working to build in McKinleyville. It is a complicated project still in development.
Recently there have been inaccuracies and misconceptions about LPH circulating in public media. Accurate information about the LPH project can be found at lifeplanhumboldt.org.
Life plan communities have existed in other parts of the country for many years, but LPH is unusual in making affordable housing a foundational goal of our effort. LPH receives no financial benefit from this, we believe in making our community as inclusive as possible. As a nonprofit we are eligible to offer tax-exempt construction bonds, but there is NO affordable housing requirement for these bonds.
Since becoming a nonprofit in 2020 we have been learning the steps to make affordable senior housing possible: completing the purchase of the property, subdividing a parcel from that land, and reaching an agreement with a separate nonprofit that will build and manage the affordable housing apartments (an affordable housing nonprofit is eligible for Federal funding and subsidies for construction, rents, and operating costs, LPH is not).
The goal is to have up to 60 affordable apartments and cottages, but until we have a contract on the land and an agreement with the separate nonprofit, we cannot say the exact number of senior apartments that will be available. All of the on-campus walking trails and gardens, exercise classes, art studios, and entertainment events would be available to all people living in the community.
We are building this resident-led, not-for-profit senior community from scratch. The cost of construction is considerable. Older, established life plan communities without the burden of new construction sometimes have lower fees, so we have always encouraged people to explore other places if they like the life plan concept. The entry fees (which are up to 80% refundable) are necessary to cover the amortization of the bond payments and to stabilize the community financially.
To lower the amount we will be financing, LPH is raising money from donations, grants, and yes hopefully some state funding. The lower the amount of our bond debt, the lower the entry fees can be, making LPH available to more middle-income local people.
Locally Humboldt County has Skilled Nursing, assisted living, 55+ senior communities, in-home care, and family support. Our life plan community is not trying to replace any of these. With 25% of Humboldt’s population over the age of 65 we need ALL options for care.
What we don’t need is strictly for-profit Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) like those run by Brius Healthcare (you can search “Linda Stansberry articles on Brius” online for some fine reporting on the subject).
Some of our LPH board members were the co-creators of the PACE program at the Humboldt Senior Resource Center and Redwood Coast Village, both established to help people stay in their own homes. Improving Brius and similar SNFs across the country has been difficult. Locally people are weary and cannot imagine that Skilled Nursing can be any better. It can be, I have seen it.
One of the biggest reasons I volunteer is that LPH can give a rural community a chance to see an alternative, not-for-profit, model of humane care. There is nothing like it within 200 miles, and we need it here.