Special Senate Committee on Aging – Bill to increase low-cost housing for seniors

Legislation Moves Forward to Increase Low-Cost Housing Options for Senior Citizens

Legislation Moves Forward to Increase Low-Cost Housing Options for Senior Citizens
Banking subcommittee approves bill from Sen. Kohl, Chair, Special Committee on Aging, other Democrats

Oct. 4, 2010 – A program of Housing and Urban Development, Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, is headed for expansion and improvement, according to an announcement from the office of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging.

The Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development last week approved Kohl’s legislation, S.118.

The Section 202 program provides capital grants to non-profit community organizations for the development of supportive housing and provision of rental assistance exclusively for low-income seniors.

“Through such housing and supportive services, the program allows low-income seniors to remain safely in their homes,” according to the news release.

This bill attempts to address the affordable senior housing shortage by:

● Making it easier for owners to refinance Section 202 developments, which may be in need of rehabilitation;

● Providing greater flexibility to owners to transform unmarketable studio apartments into rentable one-bedroom units;

● Establishing a new project-based rental assistance program for seniors at risk of losing rental housing due to rent increases after refinancing;

● Making it easier for owners to make health and supportive services available to residents through service-enriched housing; and

● Creating a national clearinghouse of senior housing facilities to ease the search for seniors and their families.

“Over one-third of the Section 202 population is considered disabled enough to be at risk for being put in a nursing home,” Senator Kohl said.

“Access to these types of services saves both seniors and the government money because they reduce the need for costly nursing home stays. And ultimately they allow aging Americans to stay right where they want to be – in their own home.”

If passed by the full Senate, S.118 would promote the construction of new senior housing facilities, as well as preserve and improve upon existing facilities. Under current law, these processes are time-consuming and bureaucratic, often requiring waivers and special permission from HUD.

There are over 300,000 seniors living in 6,000 Section 202 developments across the country, with ten seniors vying for each housing unit that becomes available. It is expected that approximately 730,000 additional senior housing units will be needed by 2020 in order to address the housing needs of low-income seniors. At this point the program is not expected to meet the future demand.

This legislation has been endorsed by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, America Association of Service Coordinators, Alliance for Retired Americans, National Council on Aging, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation, Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Services in America, National Affordable Housing Management Association, National Church Residences, National Housing Trust, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, United Jewish Communities, and Volunteers of America.

Cosponsors of S.118 included by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).