Finding affordable housing in Key West doesn’t usually get easier with age, but a new management company is lowering rents and increasing the occupancy at Poinciana Gardens independent and assisted-living apartments.

Little was heard from Poinciana Gardens following its grand opening reception in July 2018, mainly, as it turns out, because only nine of the 106 units were occupied, and those residents were paying at least $3,000 per month.

“Since Mia Senior Housing Solutions took over management of Poinciana Gardens in February, they’ve lowered the rents three times,” said Manuel Castillo, executive director of the Key West Housing Authority, which owns the property. “I think (the former management company) American House has a business plan that they follow for market-rate units, and they were unable or unwilling to adjust those plans to meet our needs for more affordable options.”

Rents that formerly started at $3,000 per month now start around $1,600 per month, said Astoria Nickerson, director of marketing and admissions for Mia, the new management company at Poinciana Gardens, which has increased occupancy to about 40% since February.

The company also obtained Medicaid provider status for the facility and can now work with veterans and spouses who receive financial support through Veterans Aid and Attendance.

“The Medicaid provider number allows us to bring in people to the assisted-living units who are only receiving the minimum monthly amount through Social Security,” Castillo said. “That is only for assisted-living, but Mia has been able to lower the rents of the independent-living apartments three times since February without any discernible decline in service. We just no longer have six dining room servers for seven residents.”

Residents in the independent-living units still receive three meals a day, laundry services, activities and other enhancements, Nickerson said, while the assisted-living units include medical oversight, a staff nursing station, bathing assistance and other services.

A courtyard in the middle of the Poinciana Gardens independent and assisted-living apartments welcomes residents to enjoy the shaded outdoors and is used for many of the activities planned by Activities Director Shathi Islam. MANDY MILES/ Keys Weekly
A courtyard in the middle of the Poinciana Gardens independent and assisted-living apartments welcomes residents to enjoy the shaded outdoors and is used for many of the activities planned by Activities Director Shathi Islam. MANDY MILES/ Keys Weekly

“We check on each resident every two hours,” Nickerson said, adding that all residents are encouraged to take advantage of the facility’s courtyard, community garden, planned activities, musical performances, dedicated physical therapy room, meditation terrace, scheduled transportation services, housekeeping and maintenance.

Castillo said he is feeling much better about the occupancy increases under Mia’s management and added that the Key West Housing Authority has been financially supporting Poinciana Gardens, to the tune of $2.5 million since the facility opened.

“With Mia increasing occupancy, that’s becoming more manageable,” Castillo said. “But there may come a time in the near future when we need to ask for support from the city and/or county if they want this facility to remain open.”

Poinciana Gardens was more than 15 years in the making, with the idea initially proposed by a group of residents who created the Florida Keys Assisted-Care Coalition that was committed to finding a way for local seniors to “age in place,” rather than having to leave their island home, which in some cases is all they’ve known.

Such is the case for Poinciana Gardens resident Barbara Jones, who rocked happily on the shaded front porch of the complex last week while chatting with her neighbors.

“I’m a proud Conch and I’ve been here at Poinciana Gardens since Day 1,” Jones said. “I love it. We enjoy ourselves. We come and go as we please and we laugh a lot.”

That front porch may need some additional rocking chairs as managers with Mia continue to make life more affordable for Key West seniors.

Poinciana Gardens is located at 1664 Dunlap Drive, along Duck Avenue. For tours or leasing information, call 305-440-3191.

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