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In a metro Phoenix area with a flood of homes on the market and numerous apartments, only three apartment complexes are fully accessible to the physically handicapped. Two are in Glendale and one is in Tempe, according to Arizona Bridge to Independent Living.

The apartments offer features such as keyless entry, higher toilets and wider doorways to allow greater maneuverability.

Gorman & Co. recently opened the Glendale Enterprise Lofts near downtown Glendale with a formal ribbon-cutting set for Thursday. The company, which specializes in downtown revitalization, adaptive reuse of historic buildings and affordable housing, plans two more metro Phoenix projects. Gorman should break ground this month on apartments in downtown Phoenix, followed by a project in Tempe in 2012.

All three projects are aimed at renters with physical disabilities or limited income.

About half of the $4.2 million Glendale lofts were built with federal funding, including $295,000 from Glendale that was federal money to stabilize neighborhoods.

In Glendale, the lofts are already filled with a waiting list capped at 60 families.

Ali Razouki, 15, who has a form of muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, is one of the new tenants. Razouki said he loves his new home with the roll-in shower and wider entrances. And like any other teen, Razouki, a sophomore at Glendale High School, likes his room and the complex’s computer lab.

For his father, Khalid Mohammed, the family’s three-bedroom, two-bath unit means more independence for his son.

“There are not too many places with the different things to help my child and his disability,” he said. “This is what he needed.”

Amina Donna Kruck, director of advocacy for Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, a non-profit group that helps people with disabilities, agreed. Affordable housing for those with physical disabilities is in big demand, she said.

She sees the need daily. Her group uses federal grants and other funding to modify homes for people. The group in 2010 retrofitted 243 homes in Maricopa County, she said.

There was demand for more, but limited funds to get it done, she said.

The federal Fair Housing Act requires landlords to let a tenant with disabilities make reasonable modifications to their apartment at their own expense and restore it when they move.

Kruck said federal law requires basic access in all ground-floor units of most new apartments or condominium complexes and in all units if the new building has an elevator.

However, it’s not required that the units are reserved for people with disabilities.

Some local governments require more. Pima County in 2002 required all new homes in unincorporated areas to have basic access. Tucson followed suit, requiring developers in 2008 to provide universal access in all residential construction, Kruck said.

“We would like to have it here but developers balk,” Kruck said. “They mistakenly think it’s less attractive. The demand for accessible housing is expected to rise as Baby Boomers age.

Brian Swanton, hired by Gorman in 2008 to lead its expansion in the state, said the cost of building a disability-accessible project vs. a market-rate development is “virtually the same.”

“We had a few elements that added incrementally to the costs such as the keyless FOB entry system and grab bars, but everything else involved such as adjusting the dimensions of the projects – increasing the height of outlets and lowering the height of wall switches – didn’t increase the project cost at all.”

Gorman spokeswoman Sheryl Bettencourt said it was far less expensive to incorporate accessibility elements into a home as it’s built than to retrofit it later.

She compared it to about $10,000 to later modify a home. “When you make these accommodations in the beginning, it makes all the difference in the world,” Bettencourt said.

Opening access
Gorman & Co. looks to bridge the Valley’s gap in affordable and accessible housing with three apartment complexes for people with disabilities. Here’s a look at projects in Glendale, Phoenix and Tempe.

Glendale Enterprise Lofts
6839 N. 63rd Ave., Glendale.
– Opened this spring with an open house Thursday.
– All 28 units are 1,250 square feet with three bedrooms.
– Fully accessible for the disabled.
– Includes a theater, computer lab, community center, fitness center and controlled entry.
– Rents range from $521 to $790 per month for income-eligible families earning between 40 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, or $23,000 to $46,000 per year.

Lofts at McKinley
809 N Fifth Ave. Phoenix, in the Roosevelt Historic District.
– Groundbreaking this month at the former site of a vacant office building. Anticipated opening in fall 2012.
– Three-story complex with 60 units for ages 55 and older. Eleven different types of units from flats to two-story townhomes, ranging from 650 to 1,019 square feet.
– Universally designed for the physically disabled.
– Includes a theater, artist workspace and controlled entry.
– Rents will range from $394 to $719 a month and will be rented to income-eligible families earning between 40 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, or $18,680 to $32,960 annually.

Gracie’s Village
1520 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, along the Metro light-rail line.
– Groundbreaking in March 2012 to redevelop a 60-year-old furniture store where Grace Community Church operates a thrift store. Opening anticipated March 2013.
– A mix of ground-floor community facilities, including a new thrift store, with five stories of affordable residential housing above the shop.
– 74 units include one-bedroom units at 672 square feet, two-bedroom units at 840 square feet and three-bedroom units at 1,064 square feet.
– Fully accessible for the disabled.
– Rents will range from $397-$611 for a one bedroom, $468-$724 for a two-bedroom unit and $529-$824 for a three-bedroom unit. Units will be rented to income-eligible families earning between 40 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, or $18,360 to $45,600 a year.
– Includes a community room, workforce-development thrift store, medical clinic, Wi-Fi cafe, playground, picnic area and controlled entry.