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America's Elderly Desperately Need More Affordable Housing

May 31st, 2016 | Retirees

Seniors getting health needs met in their own home

America's elderly desperately need more affordable housing - Here's the Solution


Condensed from HousingWire - May 22, 2016
by Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez

Our nation is aging and millions of older adults will struggle to find housing that is both affordable and physically suitable. As co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force, we are releasing a report Monday with a set of recommendations that Congress, the administration and states could implement that would enhance the lives of America’s seniors.

Our fundamental proposition is this: greater integration of America’s health care and housing systems will be essential to improve health outcomes for older adults and enable millions of Americans to age in place in their own homes and communities.

To understand the severity of the problem, consider this fact: In 2013, there were approximately 11.2 million “extremely low-income” renter households, including 2.6 million senior households with no children, competing for only 4.3 million affordable and available rental homes. This supply-demand imbalance resulted in a total shortfall of about 6.9 million homes.

According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of households aged 65-to-74 and 75-and-older with “severe” rent burdens (paying more than 50% of income on housing) will rise by 42% and 39%, respectively, by 2025.

While continued funding at adequate levels for rental assistance and service coordination in existing Section 202 properties is critical, we think it is time to create and fund a new federal program for senior supportive housing, one that uses project-based rental assistance and the LIHTC to finance new construction and attract funding from health care programs.

In building new affordable units and preserving the old, universal design features are a necessity. Structurally, U.S. homes and communities have also not been built for older adults to live safely.

Just 3.8% of housing units in the United States are suitable for individuals with moderate mobility difficulties. To mitigate the likelihood of social isolation, falls-related injuries, and other negative health outcomes, we must broadly promote universal-design features like no-step entries and single-floor living that can make homes safer for older adults.

While much more must be done, policymakers and practitioners are starting to catch up. New demonstration projects and programs are popping up that recognize the importance of the home setting to wellness. We must bring these successful programs to scale nationally.

There is a significant upside to recognizing that healthy aging begins at home, but we all must commit to action.

 

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