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116 Seniors Get Lucky in Lottery : They Win Apartments in Coveted Complex

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Joseph Pearl felt like he had just won the California Lottery.

After sitting anxiously for more than an hour as 108 other names were called before his, Pearl raised his arms in triumph Tuesday morning when his name was pulled from a bin, making him one of 116 lucky people to win a coveted spot in a new senior apartment complex.

“Oh, my God. I’m shocked,” said Pearl, 74, a retired salesman. “I’ve never won anything in my life.”

Pearl was one of 35 people who showed up at Irvine City Hall for a drawing to determine the list of prospective residents for The Inn at Woodbridge, which is expected to alleviate a shortage of affordable housing for low-income senior citizens in the county.

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The 116-unit complex, scheduled to open in May, offers housing for seniors who meet strict income guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Monthly rent can range from $368 to $779, depending on the size of the apartment and income of the applicant.

The lottery system was chosen because of the overwhelming interest in the complex. The pool of applicants numbered 492, including some people living outside the county, organizers said.

The first 116 names selected Tuesday are guaranteed an apartment if their application meets all requirements. The remaining names will be placed on a waiting list in the order that they were selected. Applications are no longer being accepted.

Winners did not have to be present during the lottery drawing, which was aired live on cable television in Irvine. Pearl was the only person present who was among the first 116 names chosen.

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Affordable housing for senior citizens is in such demand in Orange County that even those who did not automatically get an apartment were happy simply to be high on the waiting list.

Anne Matlow, 74, burst into tears when she heard that she and her husband, Harvey, had drawn number 133, giving them perhaps a realistic chance of eventually getting in. The Riverside woman was so overcome that she had to leave the council chambers, where the drawing was held, to compose herself.

Matlow, wiping a tear from her eye with a tissue, smiled and said, “I don’t cry when I’m sad, only when I’m happy.”

The couple live in an apartment in Riverside but said they desperately want to be closer to their 40-year-old daughter, who lives in Irvine.

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Irvine Mayor Michael Ward, who drew the lottery numbers from the bin, attempted to lighten the mood with humor, but the feelings of disappointment were palpable as most in the room saw their high hopes slowly fade.

“I wish I could have pulled every name in this room,” Ward said later. “The fact that there are almost 500 names in here shows that there is a drastic need for senior housing.”

Some of the applicants said the apartment complex, with its affordable rent and retirement community atmosphere, was something they had been dreaming about.

“I need one of those apartments desperately,” said a dejected 75-year-old Grace Porter, who was ranked 186. “I’m not very hopeful, but I guess it’s better than getting number 400.”

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Porter moved from Utah three months ago to escape the cold weather and has been renting a room in a house in Orange. She said the apartment complex would give her her own place again and bring her closer to her grandson, who lives in Irvine.

Navabhai Shau, 80, said he “remembered God and recited a prayer” as the names were being drawn. Still, he ended up with number 189.

Myrtle Myers, 79, was ranked 151 but said she is confident that she will be able to finally sell the Garden Grove home where she has lived for more than 40 years and raised two daughters.

“I want to be in a place where I can be around my peers,” said Myers, a widow since 1973. “I want to be involved in activities and take bus tours and trips.”

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The project was conceived by Irvine-based Jamboree Housing, a nonprofit housing development organization. The group optioned the land, on Osborn, secured $512,000 in federal funds, got a $600,000 loan from the county and then selected as a developer ARV Assisted Living Inc., which has built more then 50 senior apartment complexes across the country. G.E. Capital Corp., a subsidiary of General Electric, also provided a large part of the financing. “We see a tremendous need for more senior housing at affordable prices,” said Lila Lieberthal, Jamboree Housing’s executive director. “This is a project where seniors can be close to their families and close to activities.”

Applicants will be screened and their finances scrutinized before they are approved to move in. They will be notified within two weeks.

Annual income of applicants must be in the range of $15,018 to $36,780. Eligibility is adjusted for family size and rent can range from $368 to $656 for one bedroom and $642 to $779 for two bedrooms. The units are open only to those 62 and older.

The apartments have walk-in closets and are equipped with a monitored emergency alarm system. The complex has a recreation center with a game room and library as well as a swimming pool, spa and barbecue area. There will also be planned social activities, and the complex is within walking distance of the Irvine Senior Citizens Center.

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