AARP Reports Growing Elder Housing Shortage; Challenges Washington Leaders to Reverse Trend

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AARP and AAHSA (the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) today challenged the Administration and Congress to reverse alarming trends in housing for low income older Americans as the 2008 budget debate gets underway.

In a report released today, AARP found that waiting lists average 50 people for Section (Sec.) 202 subsidized low-income rental housing for the elderly; the wait for a unit averages more than a year (13.4 months); and one in ten property managers have totally closed their waiting lists. “Developing Appropriate Rental Housing for Low-Income Older Persons,” a nationwide survey sponsored by AARP, surveyed property managers of Sec. 202 federally funded housing for the elderly as well as managers of properties developed with low income housing tax credits to serve elders. Sec. 202 is the federal program that funds construction of housing for older persons.

“Most older Americans who need low cost rental housing today are left out in the cold because demand so far outstrips supply” said John Rother, AARP Policy Director. The ratio of Sec. 202 applicants to apartments that become available in a given year is around 10 to 1. Almost two-thirds (64%) of Sec. 202 properties have no vacancies. More than 270,000 residential units funded by Sec. 202 serve today’s older Americans with incomes less than half the median for their area. The program produces approximately 4,500 new units each year. Demand has outstripped supply since the 1980s and the gap continues to grow, Rother charged.

Odds are chilling for those seeking other types of subsidized housing for older Americans as well. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC) subsidizes the production of affordable rental housing units. Three in ten of the more than 23,000 LIHTC developments serve primarily older persons, and the ratio of eligible renters to apartments that become available in a given year is 5 to 1. Three quarters (76%) of these residential properties also have no vacancies. Nearly half (43%) have waiting lists of more than a year.

“Older Americans are cooling their heels on waiting lists for years and boomers will begin joining them within the next decade unless we do something to defrost the Sec. 202 funding pipeline,” said Rother. The first boomers were born in 1946, and eligibility for Section 202 starts at age 62. So the very first boomers will start entering the waiting lists in 2008.

“Subsidized housing not only provides an affordable place for low-income seniors to live, but also a platform for services like meals, transportation and home health that allow seniors to receive the services they need, when they need them, in the place they call home,” said AAHSA President& CEO Larry Minnix. “We call on the Administration and Congress to expand production of senior citizen apartments so more seniors can take advantage of housing with services, which provides more living options for low-income seniors and decreases long-term care costs,” he stated.

Today, the average Sec. 202 resident is 74 and he or she lives in a subsidized home for almost eight (7.8) years. “Sec. 202 homes eliminate some of the physical shortcomings that can force people to enter nursing homes prematurely or needlessly,” said Rother. “America’s investment in Sec. 202 can save individuals the loss of their independence and governments the cost of long-term care; it’s a wise investment.” Sec. 202 homes frequently offer emergency call systems (84%) and grab bars (80%), for example. Newer units feature wheelchair-accessible entry doors, bathrooms and kitchens.

These findings are based on an AARP survey of 317 property managers for Section 202 housing for older persons and 227 property managers of LIHTC properties that serve primarily older persons. The survey was conducted by mail in the summer of 2006.

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