Home Builder Launches Portable Elder Cottage Concept for Seniors

A New York-based developer is launching an elder cottage model billed as a possible solution to the growing demand for affordable senior care and based on the design concept of “granny pods.” 

The average costs of assisted living and nursing home care have increased steadily in recent years, according to the Genworth 2013 Cost of Care Survey released in April, giving rise to alternative solutions such as home care, home sharing and manufactured add-on apartments where zoning will allow for it.

In 2013, the average monthly cost for a private unit in an assisted living community was $3,450, the survey noted. And that figure has been on the rise, increasing 4.6% in 2013 versus the previous year.

Nursing home care became more expensive in 2013 as well, rising 3.60% to $230 per day for a private room, while the average cost for a semi-private room increased 3.30% to $207 per day.

Bob Novak, founder of Hopewell Junction, New York-based Echo Cottages, stresses that the company’s moveable cottage concept is considerably less expensive than what it costs for traditional assisted living or nursing home care.

The cottage, which can be moved to and fro via truck, costs inhabitants $1,300 a month if they decide to rent, and $60,000 if they opt to buy.

Since the cottages can fit spatially into the backyard of a pre-existing home, there is a “hook up” fee of about $8,000-$9,000, Novak says, which includes connecting the cottage to the host home’s septic system among other utilities.

Novak, who has nearly 40 years of homebuilding under his belt, was inspired to develop the senior cottage concept after his father experienced a health episode that required rehabilitation in a nursing home.

But the cottages, while moveable and providing solutions to some who intend to rely on family caregivers or other local in-home providers, won’t be found just anywhere, yet.

The location of the cottages poses several challenges related to local zoning requirements that vary from place to place, Novak says.

Certain municipalities in the New York area where Echo plans to roll out its cottage concept argue that the presence of a cottage in someone’s backyard is in violation of local zoning designations, as it places two residences on a single plot.

To appease municipalities, Novak has been attending town meetings to try and convince local officials of potential benefits of having senior family members living nearby rather than in high-cost settings that might be against their personal preferences.

“You could take a town, put 100 cottages in people’s backyards and never know they exist, all without creating traffic jams,” Novak says. “We’ve been trying to point this out to state governments.”

The company is currently awaiting its first client, but has been entertaining various interest from states across the U.S. in places like New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia and California, to name a few.

“People are always afraid to be first,” says Novak. “Just like when you develop a subdivision, the first sale is always the hardest.”

Written by Jason Oliva

Jason Oliva

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