City anticipates growing senior citizen population

 EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The East Lansing Council is considering easing restrictions on senior citizen housing development and taking other steps in anticipation of a growing elderly population.

The council is expected to vote Tuesday on a measure to lift the restrictions and is reviewing a recent survey of senior citizens that could help shape city development, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Housing is a key issue for East Lansing, because many apartment complexes are marketed toward Michigan State University students and young professionals, raising concerns that there might not be enough housing for the city’s senior citizens.

“We are trying to position ourselves to address the age wave that is coming,” said Kelly Arndt, director of East Lansing Prime Time, a city-run organization that assists people ages 55 and older.

According to the 2010 Census, there were about 3,100 residents 60 or older in East Lansing — up 40 percent since 1990. That number is expected to grow in the coming decades. Overall, the federal government projects that Michigan’s population of senior citizens is expected to increase 71 percent between 2000 and 2030.

“It’s an issue that is getting more attention,” said Councilmember Kathleen Corkin Boyle. “Many people in the city would like to see our housing opportunities diversify.”

A city ordinance prevents housing discrimination on the basis of age, race, sexual orientation and student status, meaning the city can’t develop age-restricted residential complexes for senior citizens.

Mayor Nathan Triplett said he expects the council will vote Tuesday on a revision to the ordinance that will provide an exemption for senior complexes, a move that he expects to increase interest in developing housing for senior citizens.

“It’s a change that makes a great deal of sense for our community,” Triplett said. “It’s an important step in the right direction.”

A city survey of residents aged 51 and older found that one-fifth of respondents planned to move within the next five years. Nearly 1,400 city residents completed the survey, along with about 1,100 Michigan State University alumni and retirees who don’t live in the city.

Triplett said the survey reaffirmed the city’s desire to create a more walkable community. Survey respondents predominantly said they prefer to live within walking distance of a grocery and pharmacy, the Michigan State University campus, a community center and a public library.