In September, Habitat for Humanity will break ground for a senior living community, Crescent Magnolia, in the Waterstone development. 

This is possible thanks to a portion of the Orange County affordable housing bond funds approved for phase one in November 2016. $2.5 million was distributed among four county affordable housing projects to create 52 homes, with Habitat receiving a little over $900,000, about one-third of the development cost. 

This senior living site, located off College Park Road between the Little School preschool and the Waterstone development, will have 24 ADA compliant units for seniors 55 and over. 

This parcel of land was set aside as land for affordable housing when the master plan for Waterstone development was approved in the early 2000s. Now, with infrastructure construction underway and official ground breaking for units scheduled for this fall, this Crescent Magnolia will be completed and ready for all residents by spring 2020. 

Mixed income housing 

In the early 2000s, the Town of Hillsborough required this 2-acre spot of land, originally owned by Waterstone developers Stratford Land, to be reserved for affordable housing. 

The land was eventually re-sold to Ashton Woods, who adopted the pre-approved 2-acre affordable housing section. 

As a decade lapsed between Waterstone approval and the development of this section, the nonprofit who planned to build these affordable units, Community Home Trust, was no longer constructing units but instead marketing units from developers. They approached Orange County Habitat for Humanity, which builds and works for home ownership. 

Upon receiving the land, Habitat determined the site would be best suited for senior living, as the land is located within one mile of the UNC Hospital Hillsborough Campus and in close proximity to other amenities. 

This will be the first senior living housing Habitat has built in Orange County, and perhaps, across the nation. According to Habitat International, the only similar project is a home rental program in Florida. No other projects like this have come from any of the 1,800 Habitat affiliates across the nation. 

“This is not something we’ve ever done before, so it’s breaking new ground for us but it’s really needed and appropriate for the location,” Habitat Executive Director Susan Levy said. “Our board really wanted to stick with the home ownership model and not move into the rental so that folks would be purchasing the units and they would be building some equity either for themselves or for their heirs.

“We are thinking of ourselves as sort of pioneers.”

This project is funded by the county affordable housing bond contribution, $125,000 from the Town of Hillsborough, the developer Ashton Woods, and Habitat for Humanity themselves. 

Design specifics

The Crescent Magnolia development will help seniors remain active and engaged in their community while staying safe as they age. 

Sitting adjacent to the Waterstone development, these units will be located beside market-rate homes, creating a mixed income housing area. Residents will have the same access to resources as those in the neighboring homes. 

The development, originally designed with 24 multiple-story townhomes, now sits at a single level. 

There will be three floor plans available among the four separate buildings: studio; one bed and one bath; and one bed, a bed niche, and one bath. Two parking lots sit in centralized locations, facilitating easy access to and from vehicles.

Designers aimed to create spaces in which residents could gather. An outdoor pavilion will be constructed, and small gardens will potentially be planted in the various common areas and green spaces. Before finalizing the design, Habitat met with several focus groups of seniors who qualified for the housing. Among other questions, Habitat wanted to receive their input on potential design hazards and what they could eventually afford. They also met with occupational therapists and experts in the field of senior living to confirm the final design would be livable for seniors and create a home they can stay in as long as possible. 

Currently, Habitat has approved about 10 potential buyers and are still taking applications. 

Infrastructure construction is set to be completed by August and Habitat hopes to have volunteers on site after Labor Day to start building houses. 

This groundbreaking is likely to garner a huge celebration, Levy said. After vertical construction begins, Habitat hopes to finish construction in an 18-month period. 

Home ownership model

With a different population of homeowners, the question remained on how they would purchase the house in sweat equity hours like other Habitat homeowners do.

The requirement of 275 sweat equity hours was not nullified, but the board worked to create alternate opportunities to earn those hours. Now, these future homeowners can earn equity hours by volunteering in various workshops, trainings, the Habitat Restore, and other options that don’t require a lot of physical activity. Though, if they are able to come out and help build, Habitat welcomes them.

Situated next to the Little School preschool, the senior living community was bound to form a partnership at some point. They have done so, creating an attractive intergenerational piece for homeowners. Potential buyers already volunteer at the school, often reading to the children. 

Once the site is completed, the partnership will remain so residents and students can interact.

“[These future homeowners] are excited to be involved in these activities that are really going to connect them more to their community,” Levy said. “It’s been a fun transition for us to really think differently about this senior housing and come up with some new ideas.”

Habitat International

Orange County Habitat is joining a nationwide initiative to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. 

The Fair Housing Act helps prevent discrimination in housing and in regards to this new senior living development, works to ensure housing for people of lower income is not isolated from the community. 

Building on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the “Beloved Community,” Habitat will honor King’s legacy through this new community in Hillsborough. Along with The King Center’s MLK 50 Forward initiative, Orange habitat will renew and strengthen “its commitment to build a world where everyone has a decent place to live and the opportunity for a better future,” a statement from Orange Habitat said. 

“We are thrilled to be joining Habitat affiliates across the country to honor Dr. King’s vision here in Orange County” Levy said. “ I am sure that our volunteers, donors, and the future homeowners in Crescent Magnolia will be inspired by being a part of this community building effort as well.”

For more information on how to apply, visit