Older-adult communities merging with all-ages neighborhoods has its pros, cons
By MICHELE LERNER
Special to The Washington Post
June 07. 2018 6:44PM
Nancy Pollock, right, and Margie Yates, left, live at Two Rivers, a planned community in Odenton, Md. It was originally restricted to buyers age 55 and older but now also has an all-ages neighborhood. (JUSTIN T. GELLERSON/THE WASHINGTON POST)
Two years ago, when Margie Yates moved into Two Rivers, a planned community in Odenton in Anne Arundel County, Md., she was one of the first residents in the development, which was then restricted to buyers age 55 and older.
“Even though I won’t retire for at least four years or more, I love living here,” says Yates, who commutes to the District of Columbia and works for the federal government. “I’m very committed to the community, and I love being with people my age and older who are retired or semi-retired and just want to have fun.”
Now after four years as an older-adult community, Two Rivers added an all-ages neighborhood. Mike Johnson and his family were some of the first residents.
“After my father got sick and passed away we brought my mother, who’s 69, to live with us,” Johnson says. “But we knew pretty quickly that three adults, three kids and three dogs didn’t work very well in a three-bedroom townhouse.”
The Johnsons moved into a six-bedroom house at Two Rivers that includes a first-floor bedroom suite for Johnson’s mother. The community appeals to them because of the recreational amenities for the entire family.
Although the blend of age-restricted and all-ages neighborhoods is ideal for families like the Johnsons, the community’s new configuration is an adjustment for earlier residents.
“I love kids and young adults, but my expectation was that I was moving into a 55-and-up community,” Yates says. “Now we’ll be in the minority here since more neighborhoods will be for all ages.”
Active adult communities, where homeowners must be 55 “or better” as their marketing teams like to call it, are the only places where age discrimination is legal. Like old-fashioned retirement communities, these housing developments typically mandate that at least one home buyer is 55 or older and don’t usually allow anyone younger than 18 to live in the household, although the rules vary from one community to another.
Classic Group, developers of Two Rivers, bucked the trend of age restrictions and transitioned part of the previously 55-and-up development into an all-ages community in 2016. The developers, who were approved to build the age-restricted community in 2004, considered converting it entirely to an all-ages development in 2011. After that proposal failed, the development’s modified plan as a combo of all-ages and age-restricted neighborhoods was approved in 2016.
Across the country at the planned community of Terramor in Southern California’s Temescal Valley, developer Foremost made the opposite move: To convert part of a previously all-ages community into age-restricted neighborhoods for homeowners 55 and older.
Combining active adult neighborhoods and all-ages neighborhoods is not widespread, particularly after a community has been partially built, but some large planned communities such as Toll Brothers’ Dominion Valley in Prince William County, Va., include both types of housing. At Dominion Valley, the active adult section is located on one side of the main road and the all-ages community is on the other.
“I love the idea of merging active adult and all-ages neighborhoods in one development,” said Dan Fulton, senior vice president of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Reston, Va. “The idea is that if you’re a young family you can live close to your parents and your kids’ grandparents. On the flip side, as an empty-nester, you have the opportunity to be close but separate.”
Local governments frequently approve the development of active adult communities more quickly than all-ages communities. Governments receive tax revenue from the new homes without needing to provide more classroom space for families and without placing extra demand on local roads or transportation options because they assume many of the residents won’t be commuting daily.
For developers, 55-plus communities have advantages and disadvantages.
“When the housing market is good, active adult communities are fabulous, but when the market is bad, active adult communities fare worse than others because these are the most discretionary buyers,” says Steve Eckert, CEO and co-founder of Classic Group in Bethesda, Maryland, developers of Two Rivers.
“It’s a lifestyle choice to move into an active adult community, which is easier when you sell your house. When the market is flat and it’s hard to sell your house, there’s no incentive like a new job or a growing family pushing you to move.”