Case Study

Sage at Folsom

6 min read

New Model For Affordable Senior Housing: Home Healthcare For All

Sage at Folsom—a 55-and-older affordable development being built in Folsom near Sacramento—will hopefully be part of a new model of senior housing for the USA Properties Fund.

Company President and CEO Geoff Brown says the long-term plan is to help seniors at the 111-apartment community, as well as other seniors, to age in place with on-site nurses and community healthcare providers.

Those nurses and providers are expensive, but the Roseville-based company plans to amortize its extensive roster of senior apartment communities to make it economical.

“Our idea is a home health care model we can scale,” to provide services, like overseeing medications and coordinating medical visits and telemedicine, Brown says.

The program will help residents to stay healthy and continue living as long as possible at Sage at Folsom.

“Older residents don’t want change,” Brown says. “They’re comfortable there. They’re near their families. Change is always disruptive for them.”

USA Properties has been working on this model for the past five years, refining it and looking for funding sources.

Several years ago, USA Properties and social-services partner LifeSTEPS established the RN Coaching PILOT Program that provided on-site health care at four affordable senior apartment communities in the Sacramento region. The groundbreaking program has received a national award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“But COVID slowed the momentum of that (program) down,” he says. “It’s been a long haul.”

The RN Coaching PILOT Program has helped plant the seed for the next step at Sage at Folsom, and hopefully at some of the company’s other affordable senior apartment communities. (USA Properties has about 7,300 senior apartments in California and Nevada.)

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Brown says. But he’s optimistic the model he creates will be standard industry practice ten years from now, similar to the way social services have come to define the industry.

Government assistance will be necessary, but Brown says the program will save taxpayers money in the long run.

“That’s our big initiative in senior housing right now,” he says. “It’s exciting because we know we’re doing the right thing. It’s just a matter of getting the program together and getting other folks to buy in.”

USA Properties has always had a big focus on senior housing since it was founded in 1981 by Brown’s father, J.B. Brown.

J.B. Brown built his first senior apartment community in 1976 in the San Gabriel Valley while working for another company. He left that company and started USA Properties in 1981, with an emphasis on senior housing.

“My dad was a senior housing pioneer,” Brown says.  “When USA Properties got into the affordable housing industry in the early 1990s, we really accelerated.”

A Passion for Senior Housing
J.B. Brown was “very passionate” about providing affordable, quality housing for seniors, Brown says. The elder Brown “believed in the socialization of seniors, that they should not be by themselves. His big push was creating social programs and activities for the seniors in the community.”

More than a decade ago, Geoff Brown and LifeSTEPS Executive Director Beth Southorn formed the JB Brown Fund.

The organization raises funds and awards academic and athletic scholarships for low-income residents living at many of USA Properties’ affordable apartment communities. The JB Brown Fund, which has raised more than $1.7 million, also helps low-income seniors facing financial hardship to pay for unexpected emergencies, such as buying hearing aids or a walker.

Fast-growing Folsom
Sage at Folsom will be the fourth development of USA Properties in Folsom, a city of 72,000. The company has two affordable senior apartment communities in Folsom, along with a family development and a market-rate project. The apartment communities are fully leased.

Total cost at Sage will be $32 million, with a significant portion coming from four percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits and tax-exempt bonds.

“Sage at Folsom received a bond allocation of $15,875,000 of which we’re estimating $10,825,000 will be used for permanent financing,” Brown says. “We also received an allocation of tax credits totaling $17,890,000 of which Bank of America, our sole limited partner, is investing $16,283,790 into the project. The city of Folsom also made a soft subordinate loan for $2,750,000.”

Construction started in November 2021 and is anticipated to be completed in the first quarter of 2023.

Age-eligible residents will need to earn 30 to 80 percent of the median income for Sacramento County—about $19,150 to $51,000 per year—in order to qualify for         Sage at Folsom. Rents will range from $450 to $1,300. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Folsom is about $2,330, according to RENTCafe.

Sage will be a very energy-efficient development with electric vehicle charging stations and solar energy through the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s SolarShare program.

Apartments will feature energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures, ceiling fans and low-flow faucets, showers and toilets, the company says.

Lots of Amenities
Sage at Folsom residents will also enjoy numerous community amenities, including a clubhouse with a kitchenette and great room; a health and wellness center; a patio with dining and seating areas; a Bocce court; community garden and a dog park. Refrigerated food storage, from grocery stores or nearby restaurants, is also available to residents.

“It’s going to be a very beautiful project, with good views and right near retail,” Brown says.

Brown says USA Properties typically uses tax credits/tax-exempt bonds to finance at least 75 percent of its projects, but notes that competitiveness and policy changes in California to receive tax-exempt bonds is causing it to look for other alternatives, including more of an emphasis in Nevada (it has four projects currently in that state) and even a project as far away as Portland, OR, its first in the Northwest.

Building codes, a critical labor shortage, environmental considerations and climate change are just some of the challenges that make it costly and hard to develop in California, he says.
“We need to create policies that promote leveraging our precious resources,” he feels.

Mark Fogarty has covered housing and mortgages for more than 30 years. A former editor at National Mortgage News, he has written extensively about tax credits.