Former Department of Housing and Urban Development secretaries Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez recently released a report to Congress detailing a set of recommendations for bettering the lives of the United States’ growing older adult population.
“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,” write Cisneros and Martinez.
Older adults currently face a lack of available affordable housing. Many, especially those with limited financial resources, have trouble finding homes that are safe, affordable and physically suitable.
In 2013 there were approximately 2.6 million renting households consisting of seniors who classify as “extremely low-income.” This is about a quarter of the total “extremely low-income” renter demographic. There are currently only 4.6 million rental homes affordable for this group, resulting in a deficit of nearly 7 million homes.
This situation is only expected to worsen; the number of households made up of residents 65-and-older who spend more than 50% of their income on rent is expected to increase by at least 39% in the next decade, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
To help combat this growing problem, Cisneros and Martinez recommend expanding federal support for programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). In its 30 years of existence, this program has seen $100 billion in private investment towards construction and preservation of over 2.8 million affordable rental homes.
Another area to expand would be the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. It has helped hundreds of thousands of older adults find housing that is affordable and has the amenities and services they need, but the program has lacked funding for new construction since 2011.
New homes must be built with universal-design features (no-step entries, single-floor living, etc.) in mind to help older adults live safer. Currently, only 3.8% of housing units are suitable for individuals with moderate mobility difficulties.
To promote a universal-design, Cisneros and Martinez want the federal government to make resources available for home modifications to support the aging-in-place. This can be done through property tax credits, grants or forgivable loans sponsored by states programs.
Cisneros and Martinez believe that now is the time to start raising awareness and that growth is key. They believe that a federal program that uses project-based rental assistance and the LIHTC to finance new construction and attract health care funding is the solution.
Read the full report here.