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Highridge Costa: Supporting Senior Household by Building Ingenious Housing Communities

Michael Costa | CEO | Highridge Costa
Michael Costa, President and CEO, Highridge Costa

One of the essential basic needs of humans is a place called home. People need a pleasant, functional, and comfortable place to come back to after wandering around in the world to make a living. This need for home gets even more fundamental at old age when people prefer spending most of their time in a relaxed and comfortable place that they can call home.

Highridge Costa is a company that is providing for this fundamental need of people in old age. The company is building exceptional housing properties that are equipped with all the facilities one would need to live comfortably in old age. The company is spearheaded by its President and CEO, Michael Costa.

In the following interview, Michael talks about the values and vision behind setting up Highridge Costa and much more.

Below are the highlights from the interview:

Please brief our audience about Highridge Costa, its mission, and the key aspects of its stronghold within the senior care services niche.

The mission of Highridge Costa is to apply a long-term business approach to enhance the lives of senior households through the development, preservation, ownership, and operation of affordable housing.

With nearly 100 active affordable senior housing communities in the United States and several more in the planning process, we strive to continue improving not just the designs of individual floor plans and communities but also to provide the management expertise and social programs to help each of our residents thrive.

Tell us more about the services that give you a distinct edge to stand out from the competition?

Most of all, we like to design places which people are proud to call home.

Then there’s also the community aspect, so we make sure to include popular amenities such as large pools for aerobic exercise, jetted spas to relax, and flexible clubhouses to accommodate everything from families visiting on weekends to club meetings.

Since our residents are active seniors, we like to promote keeping them active with well-appointed fitness rooms, exercise classes around the property and encouraging them to join and start everything from new social clubs to community gardens. We let them grow their communities organically without assuming what they want but are also there to manage it.

What is your opinion on the effects of the current pandemic on the healthcare sector, and what challenges did your company face during the initial phase of the pandemic?

We faced many challenges in our communities, especially when we had to shut down the public spaces and social clubs that are so important to our residents. Usually, we have managers gently nudging residents to actively socialize as well as floor marshalls to watch out for their neighbors, but Covid temporarily halted these activities.  Routine maintenance also became a challenge, with residents not reporting issues out of fear of opening their doors.

Thankfully, we’ve been able to reopen based on local conditions gradually, and now we have a much better handle on how to manage around outbreaks than we did at the beginning

With continuous technological development in the healthcare space, what is your prediction about the future of the senior care services market?

It’s probably going to be both more personalized and automated. In all of our senior apartments, we now give new residents an Android-based tablet, which is great for those who don’t have a computer or may simply be intimidated by computers. It’s simply another way to communicate.

When they turn on the tablet, it boots up directly to the home page of their specific community, along with a calendar of events and upcoming programs. The goal here is to immediately spark connections with those who lack computers or might be intimidated by them. For those who want to explore the tablet’s features more slowly, we have popular games they can play, such as Solitaire, allowing them to become more familiar with how a tablet works at their own pace.

Consequently, when they’re ready to jump into their new community, they’re already familiar with the fastest and easiest way to forge new friendships, whether that’s joining a social club or even forming a new one. Club organizers can also use the tablets to create or edit their online club pages, easily send messages to other members, or find out if community spaces are already booked – all with just a few clicks.

We hope that all of our residents will appreciate the ease with which these tablets help them organize their lives, freeing up more time to socialize with their families and friends.

As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the senior care services niche?

Firstly, start with one important word: Listen.  Listen to your prospective residents on what they want, which in our case could be the layout of the floor plan, the size and dimensions of the combined living/dining room areas, or even where you put the windows in the bedrooms.  They’ll have ideas on where they want to put their furniture, where they might hang a TV, and where they hope to have enough room to entertain for a family visit.

Secondly, continue to be humble. Even after a community has been built, we’ll visit the residents, introduce ourselves, and ask them for their advice. What could we do better?  What design changes would they suggest? What did we get right? Always be willing to learn.

Thirdly, it’s never prudent to go it alone. Building affordable housing for seniors is a really specific niche, so you’ll want to partner with developers, architects, designers, property managers, and local non-profits with the right expertise in this area. It’s all about the team, so encourage them to bend your ear with decisions you’ll have to make, gather as much operational expertise as possible, and, like you’d do with your residents, always be able and willing to listen.

How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2021?

For us, senior housing remains a top priority. While the demand for affordable housing has risen, so too has senior housing, which will only accelerate as the Baby Boomers retire.

Although we are hemmed in by the constraints of tax credits and bonds to finance our new communities, we’re focused on developing two to three new senior projects per year throughout the western United States.

Fortunately, we have not had to slow down our project pipeline over the past 18 months. We have a new senior project currently under construction east of San Francisco in the City of Oakley, and a new high-rise community for seniors starting construction in late September in downtown Honolulu, Hawaii.

About the Leader

It would be fair to say that without Michael Costa, there would be no Highridge Costa. Throughout a career spanning nearly three decades, Mr. Costa has supervised the development and financing of nearly 40,000 units of multi-family affordable and market-rate housing.

Prior to the founding of Highridge Costa, Mr. Costa started developing seniors-only communities in the early 1980s. As the president of Calmark in Santa Monica, CA, Michael was responsible for developing almost 10,000 units of affordable, active senior citizen rental communities throughout California.

But it’s really in the world of affordable housing while stewarding Highridge Costa that Mr. Costa has been a pioneer, tapping both federal and various state tax credit programs to develop and grow a portfolio of 30,000 units across 300 communities in 33 states and Puerto Rico. Nearly 100 of these communities are focused on meeting the needs of seniors, with several more being planned or under construction in California and Hawaii.

An expert in tax credit-based asset management, including the myriad of compliance issues associated with managing tax credit properties, Mr. Costa, is currently a member of the NAHB Multifamily Leadership Board. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Community Financial Resource Center for Los Angeles, one of California’s most active non-profit CDFIs. He also holds the CAASH (Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing) designation from the NAHB.

Mr. Costa earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and also held a general contractor’s license from the State of California.

Awards and Recognitions

Following are the awards conferred upon Highridge Costa from the 10-year period from 2011 through 2021:

2021 – Multi-Family Leadership Awards Best Places to Work in Multi-Family, Best Places to Work in Multi-Family for Women

2018 – California Housing Consortium (CCH)Affordable Housing Hall of Fame

2017 – Affordable Housing Finance (AHF)  – Affordable Housing National Hall of Fame

2015 – NAHB 50+ Housing Awards

Perris Station Senior Apartments, Perris, CA: Winner – Gold – Best 50+ Affordable Rental Community, Best 50+ Independent Living Community, Best 50+ Mixed-use Community

NAHB Best in Green Awards

Perris Station Senior Apartments, Perris, CA: – Finalist – Multifamily Category



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