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Kohl-Schumer Bill Would Address Critical Shortage of Housing For Seniors in Upstate New York - Too Many Seniors Are Left Out in the Cold As Economy Sours

Under New Bill, Priority Will Be Given To Homeless Seniors Trying To Find a Place of Their Own

Upstate New York Has a Total of 6,732 Section 202-Assisted Units For Seniors- Far Too Low For Growing Demand, As There Are Ten Seniors in Need For Each Available Section-202

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Herb Kohl (D-WI) recently reintroduced legislation to expand and improve the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program, which provides capital grants to non-profit community organizations for the development of supportive housing and provision of rental assistance exclusively for low-income seniors.  This program supplies housing that includes access to supportive services to allow seniors to remain safely in their homes and live as comfortably as possible. Access to supportive services also helps to reduce the occurrence of costly nursing home stays, and saves both seniors and the federal government money. The legislation also provides priority consideration for homeless seniors seeking a place to call their own. 


“This is a common-sense proposal that will help seniors in Upstate New York and across the nation live with dignity in a home they can call their own,” Schumer said. “Right now, the housing programs in place for seniors are inadequate compared with the demand. By making a few changes to the current law, we can greatly expand the number of affordable housing options for seniors and their families.”


“Congress needs to act now to address the demand for safe, affordable housing that allows seniors to maintain the independence.  Many seniors are currently on waiting lists for years before finding a home,” said Senator Kohl.  “With this bill, we hope to reduce current impediments and increase the availability of supportive housing for our nation’s most vulnerable seniors.”


As of 2007, there were a total of 6,732 Section 202 assisted units in Upstate New York. In the Capital Region, there were 901 assisted units, 1,095 units in Central New York, 1,454 in the Hudson Valley, 403 in the North Country, and 851 in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Area. In the Southern Tier, there were 527 assisted units and 1,501 in Western New York.


There are over 300,000 seniors living in 6,000 Section 202-developments across the country, with ten seniors vying for each 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 future housing needs of low-income seniors.  At this rate, the program is far from meeting growing demand for this type of housing.  To compound the problem, many older Section 202 properties are being converted by developers of high-priced condominiums and apartments.  As a result, many seniors currently participating in the program could end up homeless or paying exorbitant rents on limited budgets. 


The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act of 2009 would promote the construction of new senior housing facilities, as well as preserve and improve upon existing facilities.  The bill would also support the conversion of existing facilities into assisted-living facilities that provide a wide variety of additional supportive health and social services.  Under current law, these processes are time-consuming and bureaucratic, often requiring waivers and special permission from HUD. 


Last Congress, the Housing Economic and Recovery Act of 2008 included a provision from the 2008 Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act that would ensure Section 202 grants could be administered through the state housing finance agencies in order to streamline the administration of the grants.  In addition, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee included a major provision from the bill that would make it easier to refinance older Section 202 developments, many of which were built in the 1960s and are in need of repair.  This provision would allow building owners to use any proceeds obtained by refinancing the property to improve and rehabilitate it.


This legislation has been endorsed by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.  Specifically, the bill will address the affordable senior housing shortage by:


·        Streamlining mixed financing deals to reduce the development time for new Section 202 developments;

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

·        Providing greater flexibility to owners to transform unmarketable efficiencies into rentable one-bedroom units;

·        Expanding existing/potential streams of funding that can further the home’s mission of providing housing and supportive services;

·        Establishing a new project-based rental assistance program for seniors at risk of losing their homes due to possible rent increases;

·        Creating a mortgage sale demonstration project to determine if state financing agencies can do a better job of asset management and refinancing than HUD;

·        Making it easier for owners to convert properties into assisted living facilities that make health and supportive services available to residents; and

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


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