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24-unit memory care unit coming for Austin

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AUSTIN — Although not a complete solution for the city's housing shortage, additional care may be coming for those who have loved ones in need of extra help coping with neurodegenerative diseases.

The Austin City Council approved unanimously in a 6-0 vote for a memory care facility to be built just east of St. John's Lutheran Church at 12th Street and 13th Avenue Northwest during Monday's session.

Craig Clark, city administrator, shared that Cottage Properties purchased the the 3.9-acre project site for $253,500 from the city. This project would encompass 24 units that will provide enhanced care for those in need of services.

"We've had conversations with them (Cottage Properties) for several months," Clark said. "There's a demand for their services and for the community. They came and explored the community looking for sites and now they've moved it forward with the purchasing agreement."

According to a 2013 comprehensive housing study that the city of Austin approved for, it was determined that by 2020 there would be an excess demand for 363 senior housing units. There were 31 senior housing developments in the Austin Market Area with a total of 1,031 units, the reports said, and of which, 19 percent is made up of memory care units, and 28 percent made of assisted living residences.

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Natalie Burnell, Cottage Properties director of operations, said that the design of the building would be similar to the care facilities in Owatonna. While the number of residents is expected to be around 30 residents — some apartment units are shared or private — there's an expected higher staff to resident ratio.

Around 40 people may be employed for open positions at Cottage Properties in Austin, according to Burnell, including administrative positions and full-time caregiver jobs. However, the number of those hired may be expected to fluctuate as demand for the memory care units continues to be significant.

"There'll be a huge demand (for reserving spaces)," she said. "We might have a wait list months before the building even opens, and I just know there's that big of a demand for memory care in Austin. The city was pretty open to this, and we'll see how it goes with Austin. There's an incredible demand."

While the project's completed sale date won't be until Sept. 1, the actual construction of the project probably won't begin until later this year or even going into 2018. Clark added that by having a project like Cottage Properties' would help address some of the housing shortages that exist within Austin.

"Absolutely it will," he said. "We worked with them closely by supplementing them with our housing study that showed the significant need with housing. It's going to fill a 24-unit facility, and every unit matters. We're happy they're moving forward to meet the demand, and there's a demand for their services. It's a win-win for them and for the community."

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