In an age of acceptance, inclusion and advocacy, former Phoenix resident Mark Roth has given a choice to families that seek a positive and safe place for adults with developmental and physical challenges to live. Fostering the utmost in independence, new “pocket” neighborhood, Luna Azul in North Phoenix will feature 30 homes in a gated community that promotes independence, friendships, positive lifestyles and a permanent residence that offers equity instead of a rental payment.
Roth is a former attorney and the CEO of ECC Management, the company that is building the unique Luna Azul community. His inspiration was his 17-year-old daughter, Emma Roth, who lives with genetic disorder Prader-Willi Syndrome. Roth says, “Emma is 17 and in high school in Seattle. For the most part, she is mainstreamed and has an aid. We’ve been focusing on what adulthood looks like for Emma. I’m sure she’ll be closer to 25 or 26 before she’s ready to go out on her own, but she is excited.”
A Special Community Offering Safety and Independence
It was important for Roth and his wife and mother of Emma, Lauren Roth to involve their daughter in the decision about her future. Roth says, “I asked my daughter, ‘Would you rather live in a condo surrounded by typically developing folks, or in this Luna Azul neighborhood that I want to build?’ Hands down, she said, ‘I absolutely want to live in Luna Azul.’” One of the reasons Emma wanted to live there was that at night she said she would be scared in a regular apartment or home, and as her father admitted, so would he.
In a lightbulb moment, Roth had the idea to pursue the development of a housing community that would address the concerns he had for Emma living on her own. “I’m a recovering attorney,” Roth says with a laugh. “I practiced securities law for almost 27 years. When Emma turned 13, that was when we thought, ‘What does adulthood look like for her? And what options are out there?’” Group homes, or congregate living arrangements are common, but Emma’s parents were against that atmosphere, partially because of the ongoing staff turnover and partially because those programs are dependent on various sources of funding. At Luna Azul, a parent or family member owns the home, or it can be placed in a trust. Roth continues, “Back in 2007, I had seen architect Ross Chapin and what he calls his ‘pocket neighborhoods’ in the Pacific Northwest. A buddy and I were thinking about trying to get involved in a project or as the sponsor of one.” The realization of developing this kind of community was the want for social and recreational pursuits that would engage the neighborhood’s residents. “As we got into it, we had the realization that we didn’t want to build them and rent out rooms. We wanted to sell these. I wanted to own it. I wanted to decide who a roommate was going to be. I wanted to decide who the caregivers were,” states Roth. In a group home, if someone is unhappy with a roommate or living arrangement, the only choice is to move.
In the Luna Azul pocket neighborhood, individually owned cottage homes turn inward to lush HOA-maintained common areas, and feature 24/7 staffing and monitoring. Large front patios also encourage residents to come outside and interact and create friendships. It is anticipated the new neighborhood will include singles, couples and families desiring a safe and monitored gated community, where a resident’s family will have the ability to incorporate any needed in-home therapy or assistance as needed.
“What struck me was that not only would Emma be in a safer environment, but if she lived in an apartment building, I would need 24/7 eyes on her,” Roth explains. Emma can do basic food preparation and take care of her own personal grooming. At Luna Azul, she also has the chance at greater independence and personal growth, and possibly less reliance on others as she matures.
A Full-time Community Director
Lauren Roth is a clinical psychologist. She is currently working diligently to procure the talents of the perfect on-site community director for Luna Azul. “I’ve imagined that this full-time director will be someone who, over the course of time, will get to know my daughter and everyone that lives there,” Mark Roth explains. “If my daughter starts showing signs of abuse, if her medication is off and that vendor has had a big turnover and they don’t recognize the changes in my daughter, this full-time director would spot those things. That position would not exist in any rental model out there.” Likewise, no group home operator would willingly pick up the phone to report high staff turnover or potential signs of abuse to a family member. Or, in a typical public apartment or condo community, there wouldn’t be someone necessarily watching out for people like Emma and her friends. The community director of Luna Azul would be a unique advocate for the resident and for the resident’s family, helping to constantly assess well-being and livelihood.
“The most important role to me is someone who is there 40 hours a week, making sure the common area maintenance is done and making sure the clubhouse is getting taken care of. But, this is also someone who makes unannounced visits to homes,” Roth says. “They would check to see how residents are doing, and know when their birthdays are.” He also realizes that an engaged community director won’t just throw a sign up on a pole in the neighborhood about an upcoming social event. The director will go out and touch base with all the residents, find out what they want to do and work to get them all involved in fun activities and events as a community.
“This is a position that doesn’t exist yet, “Roth states. “Nobody has built a place like Luna Azul yet. I’m only so good at the business things I want to do. But, when it comes to this unique community, we don’t exactly know everyone who is going to live here yet. The flow of this place is going to be different from one that might be in Boca Raton and different from one that might be in Seattle. Balancing all of that and soliciting resident’s input takes a special person. My wife Lauren is a clinical psychologist and works in rehab medicine at Washington Medical Center with adults with acquired disabilities.” Lauren Roth is bringing a schooled and unique insight into helping to acquire just the right person to be onboarded and trained to serve this one-of-a-kind community.
About Luna Azul
Luna Azul is located at the corner of 16th Street and Wahalla Lane, south of Beardsley Road off the Loop 101 in Phoenix. Luna Azul will be comprised of 30 independently owned cottages ranging from 1,100-1,700 square feet and will be priced $200,000-$400,000. Fannie Mae financing for homes at Luna Azul is available and parents can place funds aside for special needs housing that is tax deductible under the ABLE 529 Plan, like a typical 529 Plan that allows for college savings.
Fannie Mae has an attractive program that will lend to those who want to own a home that is not owner-occupied, since it is expect that most of the Luna Azul cottage homes will be owned by the resident’s parents or another family member. Financially, it makes more sense than paying rent and Fannie Mae’s program will lend either 97 or 95 percent, depending on what level a family qualifies. With lending rates currently at very attractive levels, now is the perfect time to consider this type of home investment.
The Luna Azul community will be catered towards those with physical and developmental disabilities, but in accordance with the law, will be open to all. Roth is hopeful that all ages and abilities will fill its initial neighborhood in North Phoenix, creating a vibrant and exciting community.
Groundbreaking at Luna Azul will take place summer 2017 and homes will be available spring 2018.The HOA will maintain all the common areas, and will offer several amenities to serve residents’ needs. For additional information, visit www.lunaphx.com, or email Mark Roth at [email protected].