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BPC Calls for Dramatic Expansion of Affordable Senior Housing

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a highly respected think tank has issued a report calling for major policy changes to address the housing and health needs of America’s rapidly aging population. The report, Healthy Aging Begins at Home, was released last week and makes dozens of specific policy recommendations on a wide range of subjects. Most notably the report calls for a major expansion of housing opportunities for older adults, and greater linkage and coordination between health and housing policy.

The BPC report is a project of the Center’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force, made up of two former HUD Secretaries, Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez, and two former members of Congress, Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber. In its cover letter, Task Force members summarized the report’s intent:

“America stands on the cusp of a major expansion of its senior population, a circumstance that will impose unprecedented strains on the nation’s fiscal health as well as its health care and housing systems. Despite the high stakes, public policy has failed to keep pace, underestimating the profound nature of the demographic transformation now underway. As a result, the United States is dramatically unprepared for the challenges that lie just ahead.”

The report calls for an increase in the creation of rental apartments for seniors. “It is shameful that so many of our nation’s lowest-income seniors lack access to affordable housing. The current shortage of affordable rental homes, measured in the millions, will only intensify in the years ahead as the low-income senior population grows and more seniors transition from homeownership to rental housing. What is needed is a comprehensive and sustained national effort to increase affordable supply. Such an effort will require greater investment by the federal government, much broader engagement of the private and nonprofit sectors, and a commitment by states and communities across the country to increase the range of affordable housing options for their senior residents” (p. 37).

The Task Force was created after a 2013 report by the BPC addressed the nationwide affordable housing crisis more broadly. It was felt that a more focused set of recommendations were needed around senior housing issues, and that led to an analysis on the connection with health. “By virtue of the rapid expansion of the senior population, more and more Americans will be living with multiple chronic conditions and experiencing limitations in activities of daily living. Models and interventions that deliver health care and other services to seniors with these conditions in their own homes have the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce health care utilization and costs” (p. 10).

The BPC report calls for a major expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, and an expansion to the rental assistance component of the highly successful HUD Section 202 Program. It recommends that legislation be passed to authorize 202 properties with Project Rental Assistance Contracts to be eligible for the Rental Assistance Demonstration.

Contact: John Broderick, jbroderick@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8835