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Senior housing cooperatives offering shares


The senior housing cooperative, an ownership model that’s been popular in Minnesota for years, is beginning to catch on in Central Iowa.

In Indianola, Vintage Hills Cooperative of Indianola is taking reservations for 38 independent-living suites. Each resident will purchase cooperative shares to own one of the suites as well as an interest in the building’s common areas. Members can also serve on a board of directors that oversees professional management of the property.

“It’s a new concept for us as well as for Des Moines and Iowa in general,” said Josh Cowman, president of development for Ewing Land Development & Services LLC in Pella. The independent-living development will be attached to Vintage Hills Retirement Community, a 66-unit assisted-living center that just opened in Indianola. (See related article on page 8).

Cowman said Ewing Development will soon begin marketing similar cooperative assisted-living developments in Ankeny and Beaverdale as well.

“We’ve done independent (living) rental development and have been successful with it,” Cowman said, “but after touring some of the (cooperative) facilities, we realized how good a value it is.”

Under an arrangement known as a limited equity cooperative, a prospective resident buys an interest priced at approximately 40 percent of the unit’s actual value, Cowman said. For Vintage Hills Cooperative, that prices the units from about $66,000 to just over $100,000. “The concept is to keep those units affordable and opens up your market more,” he said.

Ewing Land Development plans to market shares for a similar cooperative alongside its assisted-living community under construction at Prairie Trail in Ankeny, and a stand-alone cooperatively owned facility on the former Rice Elementary School land in Beaverdale.

Elsewhere in Iowa, a St. Paul-based developer, Real Estate Equities, recently held a grand opening for a 50-unit senior housing cooperative, The Village Cooperative of Marshalltown. All but two of those units have been sold, said Marilyn Polley, the development’s manager. That developer has also completed cooperative properties in Mason City and Asbury, and has plans for a Cedar Falls development.

According to the Senior Cooperative Foundation, the arrangement allows seniors to maintain control of their housing options while enabling them to preserve their home equity. More than 90 such cooperatives now operate in eight states, according to the foundation.

“It’s a great concept,” said Shona Schmall, regional cooperative director for Ewing Land Development. “I have a real passion for it because I’ve seen single seniors who have lost their spouse who have moved into these communities, and there’s a tremendous amount of support.”

Construction of the Indianola units won’t begin until at least 60 percent of shares have been reserved; seven more units must be reserved to reach that percentage, Cowman said. The reservations will then be converted to purchase agreements, and residents can select a floor plan.

“We have a feeling that this will be a very popular concept in Central Iowa,” Schmall said.

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