Affordable Housing for Seniors & Heath Care

January 19, 2011, 10:23 AM

What does affordable housing for seniors have to do with health care? Plenty. Since 1977, the Senate Special Committee on Aging has been a permanent forum for study, evaluation and consideration of issues affecting our nations elderly. A quick review of the Committees website at http://aging.senate.gov tells you that they have been a key participant in annually reviewing Medicare performance and providing oversight of the administration of laws important to the well-being of the elderly, among other activities. The Committee references the findings of the Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century when noting that there will be an estimated 730,000 more senior housing units needed by 2020. This is where healthcare meets housing.

With considerable amounts of Medicare and Medicaid funds being expended in the U.S. for nursing home care, why not continue to encourage development of additional senior housing that could facilitate a longer period of independence for an aging senior in need of an affordable housing option, where they can take advantage of community interaction and community-based services? A part of the Housing Act of 1959, the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly Program was put in place to facilitate affordable housing for the elderly using tools like capital grants and rental assistance to non-profits developing housing for low income elderly. With momentum from the Special Committee on Aging and backing from a wide variety of non-profit organizations and support from both the Republican and Democrat sides of the Senate, in December, 2010, Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act of 2010 was passed to expand these initiatives. This Amendment to the Housing Act of 1959 was signed into law by the President on January 4, 2011. In updating the Section 202 program, the Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act of 2010 does a number of things in an effort to expand the use of the program including: encouraging the development of new units and preservation and enhancement of existing units and expanding access to assisted living facilities and programs that might be associated with those aided by assisted living. And importantly, it provides for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Developments maintenance of an information clearing house of affordable housing projects for seniors and a wide variety of government programs, including Section 202. Some of the other changes, for example: make mandatory the authority of the HUD (Housing and Urban Development)Secretary to adjust the annual amount of a contract for project rental assistance to provide for reasonable project costs; potentially expand the use of national expertise and backing in projects by allowing a national private nonprofit organization that owns multiple housing projects to use a local advisory board to satisfy the local governing board requirement; expand the definition of private nonprofit organization to include limited partnerships and other investor-type entities with a non-profit principal; and expand the definition of assisted living facility for grants for conversion of elderly housing to assisted living. If this peaks your interest, come back for my next post which will discuss the cost to the taxpayer. --Paul W. Gerhardt