METRO | Beverly Baker Moore : Old and in the way in Austin

This article is a casual investigation of available cheap digs for seniors in Austin.

lyons gardens

Lyons Gardens Senior Housing in Austin. Photos by Beverly Baker Moore / The Rag Blog.

By Beverly Baker Moore | The Rag Blog | July 13, 2014

AUSTIN — As the saying goes, getting old ain’t for sissies, especially in a delusion-ridden society that pretends aging doesn’t even happen. We all want to use our senior years for spending time with people we like and doing stuff we want, not worrying about how to pay for food and shelter. Unfortunately, political and economic realities force many of us into doing just that.

It is reported that the Austin area’s senior population (about 34,000 at present) is the third fastest growing one in the country. Austin is also reported to have the largest “pre-senior” population (55-64 years) in the country, so this so-called “silver tsunami” hasn’t crested.

This seems at odds with the development driven “come be young and hip in Austin” campaign. For the family on the way up, the Austin area offers both urban and suburban choices in new residences. Surrounding Austin is an army of neighborhoods laid out around upscale cookie cutter tract homes, now bigger and more expensive than ever.

Singles and young families who want to live in town can choose from a plethora of shiny, pricey high-rise apartments overlooking major streets or boxy new condos on hip side streets. And, of course, plenty of older homes are to be had and rehabbed for those who want a more gentrified lifestyle.

Area folks with more life under their belts might want other options, either because tract homes and shiny condos are not their style or simply, as is the case for so many, because they are just not affordable.

Of course, many seniors own their homes. If money runs short they could decide to open them up to folks who would move in and contribute to expenses. Of the non-home owning seniors in Austin, the more well-heeled have a selection of upscale condos and apartment complexes to choose from. They are not cheap. They look like a good option for seniors with some capital, or seniors with families who can afford to assist.

Non-property owning folks of compatible viewpoints can and do choose to share dwellings.

Non-property owning folks of compatible viewpoints can and do choose to share dwellings. They pool income and share expenses in order to afford to reside in larger homes or on rural properties. For people on modest incomes who would rather (and a few old grumps who should) live alone, Austin does have some decent options.

Regrettably, the country’s current economic system has reduced a senior citizen’s value pretty much down to their buying power and volunteer labor output. Since the median average income for a senior in America today is reported to be $22-24,000 per year, affordable housing is critical. Those who make above the median, be they wealthy or merely “comfortable,” can afford housing. Those in the middle and below are not so flush. Affordable shelter is crucial to survival (not to mention happiness) and yet tricky for those in that not so flush category.

This article is a casual investigation of available cheap digs for seniors in Austin. It is the kind of journey that begins on the day it becomes apparent to a person that their coming senior years will need to be managed on a modest income. Every day someone recognizes the need to embark on this quest. Every day someone wonders where to start.

western trails

Western Trails Apartments.

First thing, there is no real centralized information station. A person has to go looking. Two official resources that show up on any web search are HACA and The Austin Tenants’ Council. HACA (Housing Authority of the City of Austin), is located at 1124 S Interstate 35 Frontage Rd. (Call them at 512-477-4488.) Time in their waiting room will be spent among the very desperate. Resources are obviously not abundant enough.

The Austin Tenants’ Council, is at 1640 E. 2nd Street, #B150  (512-474-7006). They provide a helpful “Guide to Affordable Housing in the Greater Austin Area.” Check for other agencies also. Web searches for “senior affordable” housing, will generate lists of condo and apartment complexes in a variety of price ranges.

There are some super economically priced apartments and duplexes dedicated to people over 55.

There are some super economically priced apartments and duplexes dedicated to people over 55 that offer one or more bedroom units in the $650-850 range, an option for some folks but still too steep for many others. There are also a few low-priced subsidized complexes offering one bedroom units for income-qualified people. These are even more reasonably priced ($300-450). They also have long, long waiting lists.

Examples of these subsidized places are the Western Trails Apartments at 2422 Western Trails Blvd. (512-447-8759); the Rebekah Baines Johnson (RBJ) Center at 21 Waller Street (512-476-6051); and Lyons Gardens Senior Housing at 2720 Lyons at Webberville Rds. (512-236-1781).

Western Trails is a South Austin apartment building located a block south of Packsaddle Pass and Ben White Blvd., which makes it very convenient to some good shopping. The RBJ Center towers sit pleasantly right on Town Lake next to downtown Austin. They offer small apartments in a high-rise setting with great downtown views and some on-site services. RBJ is currently planning a big expansion as well. Lyons Gardens, in central East Austin, is an almost picturesque triangular complex of one bedroom apartments with individual porch access, a big common courtyard and a community center across the street.

There are others around the area and, of course, there is the perpetual promise that our city is “addressing” the problem for the future.

An additional and very important resource is the people who have already been out there looking. A person may find out more in the course of a timely conversation with a friend or an acquaintance than they did from their own searching because of unique information that friend/acquaintance has gained from traveling this same path, so networking is a good idea.

There should be some central community resource for this, of course. A casual yet efficiently constructed community-based information sharing/exchanging operation would be a tremendous community asset.

This article is obviously far from definitive. Information, opinions and feedback are most welcome. There is real need for some community organizing in this area and the young’uns are probably not going to do it… not until they have to anyway.

[Beverly Baker Moore, an Austin-based writer, teacher, and activist, is a contributing editor to The Rag Blog. Find more articles by Beverly Baker Moore on The Rag Blog.]

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3 Responses to METRO | Beverly Baker Moore : Old and in the way in Austin

  1. Donna Beck says:

    Beverly,

    Thank you so much for your article! I moved to Austin three years ago at the age of 55, and I couldn’t agree with you more that we need to organize and network. I felt like you were reading my mind when I read your article.

    I would love to get involved.

    Donna

  2. Back in the 60s, an elderly British Socialist who often joined in anti-war marches used to advise us punk kids to pool our money and buy up a mobile home park or three. Of course we thought there was gonna be a revolution before WE got old, so we didn’t. I don’t know if there are any mobile home parks left that haven’t been turned into trendy beer gardens or what-not, but if there are that might be an option.

    I love the idea of some kind of central place/service for senior housing info. I wonder if AGE up on 38th & Home (?) might have such a thing, or if the Gray Panthers would be interested? And the city has a bunch of senior centers — I haven’t ever been to one, guess I don’t think I’m THAT senior yet — but wdn’t those be good places to do outreach to folks b4 they find themselves in the housing bind?

    One group you didn’t mention, Bev, is older peeps who own their homes but are finding themselves priced out of the City (even tho protected from some tax increases if they have their place homesteaded) as but the overall cost of living in Austin rises every day.

    Finding creative, synergistic ways to help people stay in their homes as long as their health, etc., permits, and not being driven out (ick! the idea of moving again gives me the creepy-crawlies!!) because of inflation is a challenge all on its own… can’t help but think that the whole locavore thing is a natural connection…

    Just as important as housing info, imho, is some kind of seniors job info. Part-time, temp, work-at-home, job-share — older people still have their skills, as you well know, but dang, who has time/energy to work a full-time job along with being aged?? I don’t, that is for sure, but cdn’t feed a cat on my social security check.

    Hanging on here by my toenails for now — but for real; one thing that should be discussed on a serious basis, again imho, is a mass migration. NOT to some distant country, people have grandbabies and medical conditions these days, but not scattered to the winds, either. Look around. Not everplace in Texas fancies itself finer than a diamond in a goat’s butt!

  3. wmhanks says:

    This is the one thing that makes it so difficult to move back to Austin. When I first came in ’65, I could at least afford to share an apartment with Clark Santos in “The Ghetto”. But now I don’t know where I can find an equivalent home in Austin even if I sold my home in Nacogdoches. Then of course there’s the taxes …

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