The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

On July 2, Covia Group and the Ziegler Link•age Funds announced their joint investment in Minka homes and communities. The investment will support the development of a ground-breaking model for middle-market senior housing that merges best-practices in universal and sustainable design with leading-edge smart-home technology to create affordable homes and communities that help people live their best lives, regardless of age or ability.

Covia is a primary investor in the Minka homes project. Minkas are digitally native, human-centered smart homes designed to deliver wellness and strengthen community. Minka homes and communities are purpose-built to address the intergenerational need for cost efficient housing that helps people thrive. 

The Ziegler Link•age Funds seek to invest in companies who are improving aging and post-acute services in the United States and around the world, including Minka homes. The Funds are controlled by a joint venture between Ziegler and Link•age with investors including many of the most innovative and progressive senior living providers, healthcare systems and strategic service providers in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Co-Founded by geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, creator of the Eden Alternative and The Green House Project, Minka homes and communities leverage insights into the structure and function of personal independence for older people with innovations in architecture, technology, product design and community development. “Given the impact of COVID-19 on older adults across our country, the need to build affordable homes and communities that foster resilience has never been more urgent,” says CEO Ana Pinto da Silva. “We can map a new path forward with beautifully designed, digitally connected, compact housing that centers wellness and human connection.”

The first Minka homes will be built on Covia’s Spring Lake Village community campus in Santa Rosa. Covia anticipates construction to take place in early 2021. “We are starting out with a flagship Minka Home Demonstration Project,” says Mary McMullin, Covia’s Chief Strategy and Advancement Officer. “This approach allows us to learn together, developing a proof of concept that helps us refine our understanding of cost, scalability, and performance in line with Covia’s core mission to provide outstanding options for people wherever they choose to call home.”

Covia and the Ziegler Link•age Funds hope that this project will provide a solution for senior living that scales to meet the needs of the middle market, helping organizations across the country build communities that support older adults in a way that is responsive to changing needs. “We need to think about bricks and mortar differently,” says Scott Collins, CEO of Link•age, and Manager of the Ziegler Link•age Funds. “We are challenging ourselves to think beyond traditional senior living to find solutions that re-define the market and can scale to meet the demand for affordable, middle-market communities nationwide.”

“We don’t just want shelter. We want community,” says McMullin. “Minka’s approach was the first one that spoke to us. Their design approach allows people to live the way they want to live. I’m truly excited by it.”

Download the full Annual Report with financial reports for FY 2019 here.

Looking back over the past months, I can say with great confidence that it has been a year full of progress. Some of it came from the momentum started in 2018 by the unified Covia brand, while other aspects have resulted from a strong strategic focus and our willingness to make difficult decisions. I can proudly say that we are positioned for a future where we can help more seniors live well and age well no matter where they call home.

In February, the Covia Communities Board made the difficult decision to close one of our communities — Los Gatos Meadows. We have long had a goal to redevelop this community to better support the needs of our residents. As we began our evaluation of this long-term plan, we uncovered some safety issues at the campus that accelerated our timeline. Since arriving at the decision, our focus has been on supporting and relocating the residents and fulfilling our commitment to our staff. Soon we will begin the preliminary work of redevelopment. We are committed to staying in Los Gatos with a reimagined approach to community living.

Our year-end financial results as of March 31, 2019, show continued stability and strength as outlined in the audit results in this report. This has been further reinforced by the reaffirmation of our A- rating with a stable outlook from Fitch. Even with the one-time costs for the closure of Los Gatos Meadows, Fitch recognized the operational consistency and strength we continue to demonstrate. Their confidence is a strong signal for a bright future.

One of the important commitments we are making as we move into the future is technology. Over the past year, we have continued to implement software platforms that help us improve the services we provide. From a more efficient electronic health record system, to a new human resource information system, to a refined customer relationship management system, we have invested to create solutions for our residents and employees alike.

And it was our employees that achieved one of our greatest accomplishments this past year. We were once again named a Great Place to Work. Because this certification is based wholly on employee feedback, it says a lot about the success of the efforts we have been making. I am thrilled that our team members throughout Covia, from Support Services to every community and program, feel engaged and committed in helping us fulfill our mission. They are the heart and essence of what we do and how we can make a difference.

Expanding the number of people that we touch was also a core focus over the past year. From high occupancy at our communities to signing a management contract for Friends House, a Life Plan Community in Santa Rosa, to increasing participation in our Well Connected program and launching Well Connected Español, we are involving more seniors. Add to that Home Match launching in other geographies and making ever more shared housing matches, and the measures of progress are truly profound.

We also piloted a meaningful sustainability initiative started by our residents — CoviaGreen. The brainchild of the Green Action committee at St. Paul’s Towers, CoviaGreen involves a pledge by residents and staff to live more sustainably and consider elements of environmental justice in our community planning. The program is slated to roll out to all of our communities and programs in the coming year.

From financial progress to community progress to progress for the environment, this past year has been one of commitment, engagement, and forward movement. I am grateful to the Covia staff, our leadership team, and our Boards for all that we have accomplished this year. Together we have established an incredibly strong foundation for progress and growth.

Kevin Gerber