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Broken promises have senior housing residents seeing red

Posted by Ralph Ranalli March 30, 2008 07:58 AM

Ed Cobb (front) and other members of the residents association board at the Esplanade Condos in Hudson, (from left) Harriette McCarty, Mary Haley, Lou Tagliani, Bob Cyr and Jackie Kapopoulous, want the developers to stand by their promise not to sell to buyers under age 55.


The Esplanade was supposed to be Ed Cobb's last home. He has a condo with a sun-splashed open floor plan and emergency call buttons in the kitchen and bathroom, just in case he takes a fall.

Cobb, a 73-year-old math teacher who raised three daughters, chose the over-55 complex specifically to avoid generational deja vu: teenagers outside on skateboards, late-night parties, hallway commotion, and the other sort of high-spirited chaos that comes with younger families.

But harsh economic realities have prompted the Esplanade's developers to break a fundamental promise made to Cobb and dozens of his neighbors - that they would be free to grow old in a community of their peers. MP Development LLC is petitioning Hudson officials to reverse the residential age restrictions so they can sell Esplanade units to anyone, citing a state law that forbids towns from enforcing zoning burdens that make a development "uneconomical," Globe West Bureau Chief Erica Noonan reports on the front page of today's Globe.

Cobb and dozens of other residents who bought up 90 of the 140 Hudson units, mostly at boom-market prices between $250,000 and $290,000, say they feel betrayed in what they describe as a housing bait-and-switch.

"It's like buying a car, and then two years later they come and remove the engine," said Cobb. "That's how major it is."

With more than 20,000 new over-55 units built statewide since 2000, builders of the Esplanade, as well as developers in Wellesley, Holden, Hanover, Hingham, and Sharon, are saying that age restrictions, formerly a hot marketing tool, are now hampering sales.

The red-hot trend toward over-55 buildings worried the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association, an affordable housing group, as far back as 2005, when an agency survey found how many senior-oriented units were online, and saw that new complexes were being permitted seemingly every week, said Aaron Gornstein, executive director of the agency.

"We would not be surprised to see more developers coming forward asking for this," he said.

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