Joann Sullivan on July 14th, 2017

Almost every week someone calls me about affordable senior housing. They are usually in a crisis situation and are going to need a new apartment right away, but do not know where to start. Sometimes people get lucky, but generally it is a long process (up to five years) to find and move into affordable senior housing. There are many more people looking for housing than there are units available.


The first step is to find out what is available. For both Alameda and Contra Costa County residents, there are directories which lists all of the facilities in the county and the status of the waiting lists. For the Alameda County directory, click here.  For Contra Costa County, click here.

If you live in Berkeley, check out the website for affordable senior housing. This website lists the affordable senior facilities in Berkeley and several of the resources that can help you.

You may also want to check the Housing Authority of the County of Alameda website for information about the HUD facilities and other resources that might be helpful to you.

Finding good affordable senior housing is as time-consuming as a job. EBHO publishes a guidebook for finding affordable housing which is very useful. It gives basic information about the requirements for affordable housing and a comprehensive list of developers and management companies.

Every facility is different with different protocols, application forms and requirements. You will need to contact each one that you are interested in to see if you meet their qualifications. Talk with the staff there, call the management company to find out about waiting lists and potential openings. Write a letter telling them how much you would love to live in their building and why you would be a good resident. Go back often to see if anything has changed. Be sure to let them know if you change addresses so they will know how to get in touch with you if there is an opening. You want them to remember you.  If it were me, I would take a plate of freshly baked cookies to the office staff.

You should keep records of everything you find out so you will know what you have to do to qualify for an apartment.   It is a good idea to set up a binder with tabs for keeping all of your information on each facility. Be organized. Keep a calendar. Keep copies of your applications so you do not have to start over each time you fill out an application. I heard about a group of Berkeley women who started meeting monthly to help each other with the process of finding affordable housing for themselves

Good luck!

Joann Sullivan on June 6th, 2017







On January 1, new state legislation (AB 2299 and SB 1069)went into effect, making it easier for homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on their property. To assist in the rollout of the ADU regulations, newly elected city council member Ben Bartlett formed an ADU Task Force. I am on that task force, as well as other realtors, architects, planners, developers, mortgage specialists and others.

May 31, 2017 was the public kick-off for Berkeley’s ADU campaign. We held a panel discussion at the Oakland Berkeley Association of Realtors which was attended by about 100 realtors. Later that afternoon, a group of us met with the new UC Chancellor and staff from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation to talk about how ADUs could help ease the faculty housing crisis at UC Berkeley.

The new laws require all cities to adopt ADU regulations that are not more restrictive than the state standards. Cities must allow the ADUs “by right” with no public hearing and must issue permits within 120 days if the units meet the new state standards.  Berkeley has adopted new standards based on the state law.

These new standards ease and/or eliminate the need for parking if the ADU meets certain requirements. Cities may specify the size and height of the ADUs. For Berkeley, the maximum size is 750 square feet; for Oakland, 800 square feet.

A third law, AB2406, gives cities the option of creating a “junior accessory dwelling unit.” This is a unit created within the house which has an efficiency kitchen and interior connections to the main house. It does not require a private bathroom.

The goal of the ADU Task Force is for Berkeleyans to create 1700 ADUs by 2020. The new laws will not come close to solving the housing crisis in the Bay Area. They will create options for middle-income renters who do not qualify for market rate apartments or low income housing. They could also help homeowners meet their mortgage payments, seniors stay in their homes with an on-site caregiver and multigenerational families live close, but not too close, to each other.

Joann Sullivan on March 20th, 2017

On Saturday afternoon, I met with a group of Ashby Village members who are interested in where they will spend the next stage of their lives.   As many of you know, Ashby Village is an organization close to my heart. Many years ago, my good friend Judy Boe and I heard of a new organization in Boston called Beacon Hill Village whose purpose was to provide the support that the elderly residents needed to enable them to stay in their homes as they got older. A while later, we joined others in Berkeley, notably Shirley Haberfeld and Pat Sussman (the founding mothers of Ashby Village) in creating this remarkable organization.

The Ashby Village members I met with want to stay in their own homes as long as they can. They are considering expanding or remodeling their homes so they can have family members or caregivers living with them. Many of them are very interested in the new state legislation making it easier for homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units in their backyards. They also had questions about retirement communities and want to learn more about the facilities here in the East Bay. We are planning to have an architect with experience in helping homeowners adapt their homes for aging in place and an Eldercare Specialist speak to the group at a later date.

Everybody says they want to age in place, but what they really want is to age in community. Ashby Village is a good community resource, but it is important that people who live alone know their neighbors and have back-up plans in case of a fall or accident.

With a Little Help from our Friends by Beth Baker is a book that I recommended to them (and to everyone I know) about growing older in community. Ms. Baker writes about people all over the country who have identified problems in their living situations and worked to solve them. Many of them came up with very creative solutions, like the residents of Boston who created Beacon Hill Village and launched a movement, those in a senior mobile home park in Redmond, Oregon and the seniors who spend their lives travelling around the country in their RVs who built an assisted living facility in Texas specifically for people who live in RVs.

Many people in my generation do not want to follow their parents into retirement communities. They are genuinely interested in new ways of growing older.   It is a very exciting time for all of us. We are living longer and healthier. Technology offers many opportunities for new ways of living. Exploring housing options for seniors is my favorite subject. I am looking forward to continuing the discussion with Ashby Village over the next few months.

Joann Sullivan on December 1st, 2016

salaburgThis morning I received an email originally published in 2009 about Bay Area architect Susanne Stadler’s work, At Home with Growing Old. She is so knowledgeable and so eloquent about the residential needs of older people throughout the world. She has wonderful ideas for locating and designing senior residences that are meaningful to the community and to the residents. Every month, her organization sponsors forums on the issues of growing older. One month, it is in San Francisco, the next month, it is on the East Bay at Ed Roberts Center.

Click here to read the whole article. To learn more about At Home with GrowingOld(er), click here. You will be glad you did.



Joann Sullivan on November 21st, 2016

pink shirt and computerThe California Property Tax Postponement Program (PTP) has returned for elderly, blind and disabled California homeowners. This program was suspended by the legislature in 2009 and has been reinstated in 2016.

The interest rate for taxes postponed under PTP is 7% per year. Funding for the program is limited and applications will be processed on a first-come first-served basis. Only current year property taxes are eligible for postponement.

To be eligible for this program, a homeowner must be:

At least 62 years old, blind or disabled

Own and occupy the home as a primary residence

Have a total household income of $35,000 or less

Have at least 40% equity in the property and

Other requirements.

Repayment under the PTP Program becomes due when the homeowner:

Moves or sells the property;

Transfers title;

Defaults on a senior lien;


Dies; or

Chooses to obtain a reverse mortgage.

For more information, go to the State Controller’s website or call them at 800-952-5661.

Joann Sullivan on November 7th, 2016

200572869-011For several years I have been working with TTN-HOME to educate East Bay residents about the whole range of housing options for seniors. During the past two years, it has become apparent to us that shared housing is a very viable option.

Albany Vice Mayor Peggy McQuaid with support from the Diverse Housing Working Group is hosting a program on Shared Housing in Albany.   It will be on Thursday November 17 from 7-9 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Albany City Hall at 1000 San Pablo Avenue.  The purpose is to explore a range of possible options to increase both Albany’s housing stock and improve the residents’ personal housing flexibility. We at TTN-HOME are very excited about the Albany program.

A panel consisting of Loni Gray of ZODwellings, Lilypad Homes and Mary Doleman, an Albany resident who has opened her home to home sharers with talk about their experiences with shared housing and resources that are available to help. Videos from HIP Housing in San Mateo County, a leader in providing creative affordable housing solutions, will be shown.

Why Shared Housing?

Home Sharing is a simple idea: a homeowner offers accommodation to a homesharer in exchange for an agreed level of support in the form of financial exchange, assistance with household tasks, or both.

 The community is also a beneficiary of Home Sharing. Shared living makes efficient use of existing housing stock, helps preserve the fabric of the neighborhood and, in certain cases, helps to lessen the need for costly chore/care services and long term institutional care. A home sharer might be a senior citizen, a person with disabilities, a working professional, someone at-risk of homelessness, a single parent, o r simply a person wishing to share his or her life and home with others. For these people, shared housing offers companionship, affordable housing, security, mutual support and much more.

 Home Sharing programs can offer a more secure alternative to other roommate options. Many programs have staff who are trained to carefully screen each program applicant through interviewing, background checking and personal references.



Joann Sullivan on November 5th, 2016

I have had such a wonderful response to my last post about Bridge Meadows.  Here is another inspirational article about this wonderful program.


Joann Sullivan on November 1st, 2016

Grantmakers in Aging 2015 conference, Oct. 29, 2015. Photo: Jay MallinI went to the Grantmakers in Aging Conference last week in Portland as part of my work for the East Bay Foundation on Aging. I had an absolutely wonderful time learning how people in other parts of the country and Israel are solving the problems of their aging residents. The people in the granting organizations are so committed to serving the needs of their beneficiaries.   It made me feel much better about the future of our country, knowing that some of the best minds in philanthropy are dedicated to improving the lives of elders in their communities.

The lectures were about family caregiving, palliative care, social determinants of health, long term care financing and aging in rural America. Some of the sessions I attended were on using technology to address the needs of older adults and best practices for alleviating social isolation. I was part of a roundtable discussion on aging friendly communities. I learned so much from other people who are working with many of the same types of issues that we have here in Berkeley to become more age friendly. (It was notable that this conference was held in Portland on the tenth anniversary of their becoming the first World Health Organization designated Aging Friendly City in the United States.)

The highlight of the conference was my trip to Bridge Meadows, a unique intergenerational community in North Portland. Its residents are adoptive parents, foster children and low income elders who pay reduced rent in exchange for helping the parents with child care, homework assistance and almost anything else the parents need to support their families.

9984076The children were at school when we were there, but we heard from many of the elders about how their lives had been transformed by being part of this amazing community. A newer resident told about how lonely she was before moving to Bridge Meadows; now she is so involved with the other elders and the families who live there.  One of the elders told about taking her family on a camping vacation in the summer. Another told about her work helping a single mom take care of her children while taking on the responsibilities of a demanding job.

Here is a video that describes how the residents feel about their home at Bridge Meadows.

I am always interested in innovative housing options for seniors and Bridge Meadows is a winner. A group of foster youth who have aged out of foster care will be moving to a residence across the street from Bridge Meadows. There is also a second residence being built in Beaverton, Oregon.

Joann Sullivan on August 27th, 2016

Yesterday my friend Mona Kreaden spoke at the national Aging and Wellness Conference in Washington D.C. about the TTN-HOME program which we have been working on here in the East Bay for many years.    She summed up our history, described many of the housing options available for seniors and talked about how others could form similar programs in their own communities.  Click here for a video of her presentation.

The planning team for TTN-HOME (Mona, Susan Green, Christine Olsen, Andrea Mok, Lynn Richards, Arlene Reiff and me) have decided to take a few months off to figure out what we should do next.

Joann Sullivan on August 9th, 2016

Anabel_Pelham_updateSeveral years ago I attended a presentation by Anabel Pelham who is Professor Emeritus of Gerontology at San Francisco State University. She talked about her work in Los Gatos to become a Global Age Friendly City. I was so excited to hear her speak about their work in the South Bay and felt that this was something we really needed to do in Berkeley.  After all, Berkeley is the home of the Independent Living Movement and as I have said many times, it is the best place I know of to grow older.

My enthusiasm was re-kindled a few weeks ago when I heard her speak again at the East Bay Foundation on Aging’s Celebration of its Grantees. I told her about my ideas and I also found out that there is a group of people in Berkeley already working on making our city an aging friendly city.

First a little background information.   In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) began an international effort to respond to two significant demographic trends: urbanization and an aging population. At that time, over half of the world’s population lived in cities. It was projected that by 2030 sixty percent of the population would be elderly, mostly due to improvements in public health and people living longer.

To help cities prepare for these trends, the WHO developed the Global Age-Friendly Cities project. They identified eight domains that age friendly cities must address to “optimize opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”

The eight domains are:

  1. Housing
  2. Social Participation
  3. Respect and Social Inclusion
  4. Civic Participation and Employment
  5. Communication and Information
  6. Community Support and Health Services
  7. Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
  8. Transportation

It is the Berkeley Age Friendly Project’s goal to assess the current needs in the city of Berkeley according to the 8 domains of the WHO Age-Friendly platform. Based off of this assessment, the group will start the process of applying to become a WHO Age-Friendly City.

The people working on Berkeley’s Age Friendly Project are Abbey Dykhouse, Coordinator of the project and Leah Talley, Director of Senior Services for the City of Berkeley.  The key partners are:

  • Ashby Village
  • Lifelong Medical Care
  • Center for Independent Living
  • City of Berkeley, Aging Services Division

I am so excited about this project because I know that when our city takes the steps to improve the environment for older people it will be a better city for people of all ages.