Between her Social Security payments and a state pension, one Center Grove area senior was paying nearly three-quarters of her income to rent an apartment about four years ago.

Her son and grandson, who help the 76-year-old woman manage her finances and assist with paying bills, managed to find a place that was about $300 a month cheaper. Now, their concern is what they will be able to find when she can no longer live on her own.

Between Social Security and a state pension, Judy Riley gets about $1,500 a month. When she was staying at her previous apartment prior to moving to Clary Crossing Senior Villas in the Center Grove area, her rent was about $1,100 a month. Now she pays about $800.

“Where we’ve got her right now is the most affordable place she can live independently,” said Daniel Riley, her grandson who lives nearby in Bargersville.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

For seniors on a budget, finding an affordable place to live can be a challenge in Johnson County. At some apartment complexes that offer units for seniors, the wait to get into a unit that is priced below the market rate can be anywhere from six months to a year. For apartments that accept Section 8 housing — a voucher program that gives rental assistance to people with low incomes — the wait can be more than a year.

The need for quality, affordable housing for seniors is high in Johnson County, said Kim Smith, the director of Johnson County Senior Services.

“We have calls coming in every single week for individuals looking for affordable housing,” Smith said.

A shortage of affordable housing is an issue across the nation, not just in Indiana, said Brad Meadows, a spokesperson for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which helps finance affordable housing projects and assists low-income Indiana residents in finding places to live.

In Johnson County, all but one affordable housing complex had a waiting list, according to the state’s listings, and that one complex didn’t have apartments set aside for seniors. For example, Cambridge Crossing Apartments in Greenwood has 138 Section 8 units, but the wait to get into them ranges from six months to a year, assistant property manager Nancy Carlisle said.

That leads some seniors to have to make difficult choices, Smith said.

“Seniors are already choosing between food and medicine,” she said. “We have a complete lack of enough places for seniors to live that they can afford. And the calls come in every day where they are struggling.”

For Daniel Riley, helping his grandmother pay for groceries or medicine isn’t a financial burden, but without family assistance, he’s not sure what she would do.

“I’m pretty lucky,” he said. “I’m able to help her out. Some families may not be as lucky.”

For Sandy Duerlinger, an Indianapolis resident who moved to the Center Grove area three years ago, being able to get a more affordable, and larger apartment was a pleasant surprise.

She had been living in a one-bedroom apartment in Indianapolis when an apartment complex in the Center Grove area, just west of State Road 135, caught her attention. The move allows her to save about $100 a month, which is a big help since she is living off of Social Security and her savings.

After driving by Clary Crossing Senior Villas, Duerlinger asked about any openings and found out that she would qualify for a low-income unit at half-cost, which is about $640, but would need to wait an unknown amount of time for a vacancy. The wait ended up being only several months, which is shorter than usual.

The move allowed her to go from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom apartment, as well as to have a ground-floor unit, which she would not have been able to afford at the market rate, she said.

Clary Crossing Senior Villas, which offers residents a percentage discount based on their income, is almost always full with a waiting list. The community, which has 72 reduced-price units, offers discounts ranging from 30 to 60 percent of the market rate for seniors under certain income amounts. How long an applicant will have to wait to get an apartment depends on when units are available, which is difficult to predict, assistant property manager Andrea King said.

For apartments at 30 percent of the market rate, which cost $286 a month for a one-bedroom and $341 for a two-bedroom, the wait list is about two years, she said. A resident has to make less than $1,400 a month to qualify. The complex does have one opening available at 60 percent of the market rate, or $680 a month, available for renters earning less than $29,000 a year.

Affordable housing is a high need for seniors in Johnson County, especially as residents want to be in communities solely with other seniors, she said.

The ability for his grandmother to be around other seniors was one of the main reasons Daniel Riley selected Clary Crossing for her, he said.

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2702.