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A Note From Ed Guion on Elder Cottages

First of all, what is an Elder Cottage? It can be described as a factory-built, completely self-contained, small energy-efficient, aesthetically appealing cottage designed with the needs of elderly or mobility challenged people in its concept and layout. It is relocatable by the nature of a modular design and is normally placed in the side or rear yeard of the main house of the next of kin with zoning approval. Zoning officials normally require assurance that the unit will be removed from the site when the older residents no longer occupy it. Most have been installed on an engineered treated timber foundation so that there is minimal disruption of the site which would normally occur if a full concrete footer and block foundation were installed. An Elder Cottage is not a mobile home, but a true modular in construction meeting rigid building codes in all the northeastern states.

My name is Ed Guion, retired president of Coastal Colony Corporation of Manheim, Pennsylvania. Before my retirement in 1997, I was involved for over twenty years in the design, development and manufacture of this product, and was able to place over one hundred and fifty units in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland. I also helped a small manufacturer in Nebraska set up an operation to produce the cottages for several states in the northern Midwest. Approaching retirement, no one that I contacted was interested in taking over my company and carrying the banner, so I dissolved my corporation figuring I had done my bit in a small way, addressing the housing needs of elderly with this approach. I then designed a larger version of my Elder Cottage, had it built at the modular factory, found my ideal plot of high ground in rural Perry County, and had the house set in place where I settled in for some much earned rest and relaxation. It felt good to reside in something I had pioneered over the years.

I thought with my retirement that I had left the field, but somehow people and organizations still found out about my past work and continued to contact me requesting information and availability of these cottages. In checking out the subject on the internet and attempting to find someone else who makes them, I found a certain amount of misinformation or outdated data on the subject, and felt that I ought to at least put my two cents into the mix. From some of the summaries I read, either we worked really on the cheap over the years here in rural Pennsylvania, or there have been some greedy people charging what I consider unreasonably high prices for their products and services in placing and relocating their version of Elder Cottages. (Remember, Iím retired and not trying to sell anything, so if I hurt some feelings... itís just tough-get over itÖ) Iíll be specific here shortly.

Because I was not able to find another source to whom I could refer these interested parties, I contacted a respected modular manufacturer who had produced modular units for a number of years, with extraordinary attention to quality and service, to see if they would produce this product in their factory. They indicated that they would, and continue to turn out cottages for families in need of this type of housing for their aging parents.

I am still able to visit the job sites to see if the unit will fit, help in approaching the local zoning and planning officials and doing the leg work, although I no longer do the on-site work to set the unit. Experienced set crews are available locally to do the work I once performed with my company, so that actually simplified the equation. Most importantly, now that there is no third party company involved, the costs of these Elder Cottages are within 5% of what they cost in 1998. OK, let me be specific.

For example, we had a one bedroom Elder Cottage go out to the site, delivered, set in place on the pre-prepared treated wood foundation and completely wrapped up in two days for a cost of under $39,000.00. A few months earlier, a slightly larger two bedroom house went in for a bit over $42,000.00. From some of the prices that I uncovered in checking on current sources, I saw some past costs that were almost double.

Then there is the estimated cost of recycling and relocating these cottages when the present residents no longer need them. After all, one of the great advantages of Elder Cottages is the aspect of using them a second time for other families with similar needs. Here I uncovered stated costs that made me want to chase the contractorís Bently with a hammer. angry that such greed could run rampant in the market place. These inflated costs, turned into HUD in a demo program several years ago, made the whole concept look like it was not cost effective. Well, with those kind of numbers, of course, it was not a good deal. I wonít repeat the costs here as I donít function well in the stratosphere of numbers of that magnitude. Suffice to say, the current cost of relocating an Elder Cottages in the area, right now, (that is going to the site with a crew, taking the existing unit off its foundation, loading it onto undercarriages with a crane, transporting it to the new site, setting it up once again on a new in-place foundation) would be in the neighborhood of $9,000.00. This figure could vary based on distance to the new site, general accessibility, need for repairs, etc., but the number is a good reference point.

Although I am getting into my dotage years and not as active as I used to be, I am still pleased to be called upon to work in any way I can to see this form of affordable senior housing stay a viable option. Having put in continuing efforts involving this concept since 1982, I am pleased that it still fills a viable need for an ever-increasing senior population in search of affordable housing options. You may feel free to call, write or email me for any additional information that I could provide on the subject. Iím just glad to see that the concept is still alive and kicking. Come to think of it, Iím sort of glad that I am tooÖ.