Shantele Frie, City Planner for the City of Excelsior Springs, recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where she attended the Housing Assistance Council’s conference on building rural communities. During the conference, she achieved certification as an Aging in Place Specialist. Frie’s participation in the conference and subsequent certification should help boost the community’s growth into the future.
The Housing Assistance Council’s conference brought together professionals from across the nation, including individuals from more than a dozen states, federal and state senators, USDA representatives, and national nonprofit organizations. The conference’s primary focus was on addressing the housing needs of aging populations in rural areas, a topic of increasing relevance as demographics shift.
Excelsior Springs has actively embraced the concept of being a community for all ages. In January of 2022, the city was awarded the Gold Level Certificate for communities for all ages from the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC). The city’s dedication to this program arises from the fact that an increasing number of Americans, especially those aged 50 and over, are opting for active lifestyles and seeking to remain in their existing communities as they age.
One of the challenges facing Excelsior Springs is its aging housing stock, most of which predates the 1970s. These older homes often lack compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and do not meet the needs of residents as they age and face mobility and cognitive issues. Frie’s newfound certification as an aging-in-place specialist equips her with the knowledge and tools necessary to address these challenges effectively.
Frie’s role as a certified specialist enables her to guide local builders, developers, and individuals who are renovating their homes toward making them safer and more inclusive for people of all ages. This includes implementing features such as grab bars, widened doorways, and accessible workstations for those with mobility issues. The concept of Universal Design is being promoted in all new construction, emphasizing the importance of designing homes to be welcoming and inclusive for all community members. Some construction may qualify to have building permit fees waived if it meets the specified requirements.
One upcoming project that illustrates these principles is the Flats at Coach Crossing, which is slated for construction on lots located across from the fire station on Tracy Ave. These housing units are being designed with Universal Design principles in mind, making them accessible and appealing to a broad range of residents while also allowing the developers to save on permit costs.
Excelsior Springs has also adopted a Universal Design code, offering incentives to new developments that incorporate these principles. Builders may receive rebates of up to 30% on their building permits and access discounts from retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot for features such as grab bars and lever handles.
Frie underscored the significance of her experience at the conference, noting that it broadened her perspective on the housing needs of aging populations. She noted the increasing importance of communities like Excelsior Springs, where residents from different generations seek to live together and maintain a strong sense of neighborhood and community.
It should be noted that Shantele’s journey to becoming a certified aging-in-place specialist was entirely grant-funded, with no cost incurred by the City of Excelsior Springs. She expressed her commitment to using her newfound expertise to benefit the community and enhance the quality of life for all its residents.
If you have any questions about the Community for All Ages program or if you’d like to speak with Shantele about the programs and incentives offered for builders, reach out to the Excelsior Springs Community Development Department located inside the Hall of Waters at 201 E Broadway Ave St, Excelsior Springs; or give them a call at (816) 630-0756.