Federation Housing Opens Annabel Gardens, Expands Affordable Housing Opportunities

A group of people stand behind a blue ribbon being cut in half.
The Lindy family, Federation Housing staff and community leaders at the ribbon cutting of Annabel Gardens on June 16 | Photo by Jordan Cassway

As seniors live longer and have better quality of life, they want to age in place, surrounded by family. But what happens when these seniors cannot afford to do so? 

Federation Housing, a Jewish nonprofit providing affordable housing and services to seniors, is working to address this issue. On June 16, the organization, as well as local officials, celebrated the opening of Annabel Gardens, Federation Housing’s newest expansion for affordable housing for seniors.

The apartment complex in Willow Grove has 54 units, expanding Federation Housing’s capacity to 1,300 units across 12 buildings able to house 1,500 seniors. Federation Housing broke ground on the building in December 2021.

“We have thousands of people on our waiting list at those various locations, waiting for opportunities to get in the door,” said Federation Housing Executive Vice President Eric Naftulin. “So the need for Federation Housing is evident by that waiting list.”

Annabel Gardens is named for Annabel Lindy, a real estate developer and philanthropist who grew up in barrack housing in Lacey Park, not far from the Willow Grove complex. She was the first female board member of Federation Housing. The Lindy family with a lead donation of $1.5 million, as well as the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, funded the expansion.

The complex is available to seniors 62 and older who are living off of pensions or Social Security and are unable to otherwise afford housing. They may have had a life event that caused them to deplete their savings, and are now unable to pay for food and medication, in addition to rent, according to Naftulin.

In addition to subsidized housing, Federation Housing also provides additional services such as subsidized lunch, arts and crafts and educational opportunities, transportation and chaplain visits.

“We try to bring all the services under the roof and just really give the population a reason to feel like they’re still independent, and they’re not relying on everybody else, like loved ones, for financial support, transportation to the grocery market and all of those things,” Naftulin said. 

Because of an aging population, there’s an increased number of seniors in need of assistance. Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which promotes and develops affordable housing opportunities, has an application pool composed of about 25% and 35% seniors, according to Robin Weissmann, the PHFA executive director and CEO. The number of eligible, but unserved, seniors is increasing, as is the time spent on waitlists for public housing.

This problem existed before the pandemic, but COVID exacerbated the need to increase affordable housing opportunities.

“It created the perfect storm because everybody recognized the primacy of having a home, a place to live,” Weissmann said.

For Kenneth Lawrence, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, which contributed $1.1 million to Annabel Gardens, housing is both an infrastructure and human rights issue.

A group of people stand next to a wood podium and look at a painting of Annabel Lindy being placed above a fireplace mantle.
Annabel Lindy’s portrait reveal at the opening of Annabel Gardens in Willow Grove on June 16 | Photo by Jordan Cassway

The Board of Commissioners dedicated $32 million from their allocated funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to affordable housing, including the construction of 325 affordable housing units in the county.

Though housing assistance isn’t unique to Montgomery County, Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest counties in the commonwealth, meaning the cost of living is high. However, 22% of Montgomery households are asset limited, income constrained and employed, or ALICE, according to a study from United for ALICE. Creating affordable housing opens up the resources of the area to more than just the wealthy, according to Lawrence.

“We don’t want to be a county where just the top of the income level can afford to live here,” he said.

Annabel Lindy, who died in 2010, was committed to addressing affordable housing for seniors, in addition to other ventures.

“In a sense, it’s ironic the building carries her name and portrait when her style was to act outside the spotlight,” daughter Elaine Lindy said.

While Annabel Lindy was growing up in subsidized housing, she was a voracious reader and attended Abington High School, where she was the only Jew. She later attended Beaver College, now Arcadia University, before marrying Philip Lindy and joining his firm Lindy Property Management.

Annabel Lindy went on to establish and endow Limmud to promote Jewish education; served on the board of the Gershman Y, the National Liberty Museum and Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; and in the 1970s, travel to the Soviet Union to support Jewish refuseniks. She also helped settle Ethiopian Jews in Israel.

“A lot of her philanthropy was anonymous,” Annabel Lindy’s sister Ruth Bergman said. “She was not a philanthropist because she was looking for recognition. She just really believed in things.”

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