Key West needs more and better care facilities for its senior citizens. This blog will discuss ways to do so. The grandiose give-away promoted by the "Florida Keys Assisted Care Coalition" is not the best way. We can do much better.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who profits?

A key question about the development proposed by the FKACC is who will profit from it?

When the land was conveyed from the Navy to the City, the desire was that the citizens of Key West would profit, by filling the City's dire need for more and better affordable assisted living for our seniors. The Navy actually required that part of the land be set aside for that purpose, as part of the conveyance agreement.

The FKACC came up with a plan that, when you look solely at the Assisted Living component, sounds pretty reasonable. They offered up 40 assisted living units on about an acre of land (about the size of the adjacent parcel being "donated" by Keys Energy), of which half would be defined as "affordable", and the other half "market rate". The marke rate ones would presumably break even, cost-wise. The affordable ones would require some kind of subsidy.

The problem arises when the plan for that subsidy is examined.

The FKACC came up with a plan that calls for 4+ more acres (provided for free by the City) to be put aside for a large INDEPENDENT living facility. This facility would NOT be used by the seniors requiring assisted living (the ones called for in the conveyance agreement). It would be used by generally healthy older citizens who could still drive, even still have jobs. The people who could afford to pay to move into this facility would be asked to pay EXTRA -- beyond market rate -- to subsidize the much smaller assisted living facility.

The term "Independent Living" was carefully chosen to blur the distinction between the two connected facilities. It's easy to confuse those who don't examine the issue carefully, when "assisted living" and "independent living" are thrown into the discussion. It's even worse when discussion of the overall plan doesn't look at the two seperate components involved. Remember, the overall project dedicates less than 20% of the required land to the sorely needed ASSISTED living, and over 80% to the so-called, not-so-sorely needed "Independent Living".

Basically the Independent Living component of the project is just a bunch of nice condos for retired or semi-retired people, with concierge service available. They would not be sold outright -- complicated financial arrangements would be used to get into one. But the key is that it would take a lot of money. And it would NOT be used by people who require ASSISTED living.

To sweeten the pot, the FKACC proposes to make 8 of the 95 independent units "affordable". (That's less than 10% of them, even though City development standards call for all new developments to include 30% affordable units.) By doing this, the FKACC people were able to make the claim that it would be a "mixed income" development. Ummmmm, maybe. But the "mix" would be over 90% for UPPER income people, and less than 10% for people of less means. Not toooo mixed.....

Anyway, to get back to "who profits": This big non-assisted compoent of the development would also tend to "profit" a fair number of people of signifficant means who want to live at a nice new waterfront park, something that their money wouldn't be able to currently buy them elsewhere in Key West. That "profit" wouldn't be available to very many within our community.

It could be debated whether that's actually "profit", but it is a "value" that some people will get back if the City makes this investment. But let's move beyond this "profit" involved in being able to live in the (planned for) assisted living facilities or in the (added to the plan by the FKACC) independent living facility and examine where actual monetary profit is involved...

It's certain that the actual builder of the project won't work for "cost". The construction work is going to profit somebody. We do know that nobody on the FKACC board is going to be involved in THAT work, since the FKACC charter forbids it (and rightly so). Hopefully the builder who eventually chosen will be a local one, so that the profits involved in the construction will be more likely to be plowed back into our community. It'd be a shame if an outside builder does this work and brings in outside craftsmen and minimizes the economic benefit to our citizenry. Time will tell.

But once construction is completed, who will profit?

During their well-financed "vote for our plan" road show, the FKACC people made a big point how management by a non-profit organization (like a major church) is how this facility will keep costs down for those citizens who have to pay to get into it. And you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who voted in favor of the referendum who did NOT think that this would be a fully non-profit venture. The church and motherhood and apple pie. A nice facility for all our seniors, run by a church at minimal cost. No, those words weren't used -- but that's the message that came across. to so many.

Did you watch the election results coverage last Tuesday night? After the results were in and the referendum had passed, the FKACC reprentatives quickly changed their tune. A couple of times, while congratulating themselves on their victory over the "nay-sayers", they mentioned that the next step was to "look for a non-profit OR FOR-PROFIT group" to actually implement their plan. I'm talking MINUTES after the results were in, they were already starting to do a re-level-set of their expressed intentions, making it clear that this project will NOT necessarily be a non-profit venture.

How soon do you think that we'll be seeing an RFP from Atria?

Where else in America has a big for-profit senior care organization been given free land? Not to mention waterfront land -- in a major city park? Is that what our citizens were voting for?

Be prepared to let your Commissioners know that this is NOT what Key West needs. Those who use these facilities should not have to pay from their collective pockets for outsiders to profit. Even ahead of that, we should not turn over prime free land to a group that will profit from it. We need to make sure that the Commision insists that any RFPs presented to them don't burden our seniors -- and our taxpayers -- with sending profits outside our community.

1 comment:

JennyK said...

David, I've read all of your letters and comments here. You seem to be quite accurate in arguing that there will be a larger need for the assisted living units. In Ohio, only the wealthy can afford assisted living or retirement condos. I'd think that the wealthy and healthy have many more living options than those that need assisted living.

The rules may vary by state as to what qualifies as "assisted living." Here, many AL's determine the rent by how much assistance is needed. We have a local retirement community that will buy your home so you can afford one of their condos. Then they sell your home at a profit. Our state could keep a lot of people from state-funded nursing home care if they paid for assisted living. Keep fighting for the underdogs.