Imagine a Florida retirement for $395 to $520 a month, with amenities including a newly renovated swimming pool, tennis courts, a baseball field, and a lake for boating. There are only two catches: No pets are allowed. And you have to be a retired letter carrier to live there.
The place's name is Nalcrest, an acronym for National Association of Letter Carriers Retirement, Education, Security and Training Foundation. It was established 50 years ago on 263 acres in central Florida as a haven for members of the letter carriers union, with 500 garden-style apartments (all on ground level) surrounding a 15-acre lake. According to Nalcrest's website, "Rental fee includes water, sewage, trash removal, basic cable TV, interior and exterior maintenance and use of all recreational facilities."
Nalcrest trustee Matty Rose said that most renters are "snowbirds" who spend extended winters in the Sunshine State, leaving around Easter and starting to return close to Halloween. In their absence, Rose said, "we take care of everything. All they have to do is let us know they're going." About 75 residents stay there year-round.
Nalcrest also rents fully furnished guest apartments on a sliding scale that averages out to about $50 a day -- "quite unusual" for Florida in wintertime, Rose observed.
There may be a sliver of hope for those who are attracted to to Nalcrest's affordability and easy living but never worked for the U.S. Postal Service: Although the vast majority of residents are retired letter carriers -- either 55 or older or having left the Postal Service on disability -- Rose said that Nalcrest had recently admitted a small number of non-NALC applicants who fit the other requirements, in order to fill up vacant space. But since Nalcrest paid off its government mortgage in 2002, residency in this "paradise with a ZIP Code," in Rose's phrase, has been all-but-reserved for erstwhile mailmen (and their fema. In that respect, Rose said, "I think we're unique in the United States."