photo courtesy Luna Azul

Land Zo! - Atypical Development

Written by Lauren Loftus Category: Valley News Issue: September 2018
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Luna Azul in North Phoenix is the first neighborhood in the U.S. to cater specifically to adults with disabilities.

About five years ago, Seattle developer Mark Roth started proactively looking into independent housing options for his then-13-year-old daughter, Emma, who has developmental disabilities. The Phoenix native found few options in group homes and was disheartened by the limited independence of residents. So, he decided to build her a place catering specifically to adults with special needs.

The result is Luna Azul, the first-of-its-kind pocket neighborhood in the U.S. By summer 2019, 30 homes ranging in size from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet will be move-in ready in a quiet gated community bordering the Loop 101 freeway and 16th Street in North Phoenix. “Permanence was a big issue for me,” Roth says of why the homes at Luna Azul will be owned outright by residents or their families. “What if [a group home] didn’t renew its lease, or its owners were selling the property?” Plus, at Luna Azul, Emma “has a shot at a social life,” he says.

Sales director Sean Zimmerman of Launch Real Estate says pocket neighborhoods, a concept popularized by Washington-based Luna Azul architect Ross Chapin, “promote a higher level of community development.” These are small-scale neighborhoods, typically comprised of clustered groups of houses around a shared open space. At Luna Azul, each house has a front porch facing large, grassy courtyards. To further encourage interaction and socialization, there’s a clubhouse with programming run by an on-site director and a 24-hour staff.

Houses will be customizable according to each resident’s specific needs. For example, Zimmerman says, “We can install light sensors that will come on for middle of the night wake-ups” Twenty homes have already sold, at price points from the low $300,000s. HOA dues will range from $800-$1,500 a month. Compared to average costs for group homes or private rooms in licensed nursing homes (averaging about $77,745 per year, according to care.com), Zimmerman says owning a Luna Azul home is hugely cost-effective for people planning long-term care.

“The financial benefits are staggering compared to renting,” Roth agrees. “I’m budgeting for 45 years for [Emma]… if I buy this home, then the last 15 years, there’s no mortgage payment, there’s equity at the end.”