Rep. Maxine Waters headshot
Rep. Maxine Waters

Last week, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, began circulating a sign-on letter to her House colleagues in support of strong rental assistance funding levels for several Department of Housing and Urban Development programs, including those that provide assistance to older adults.

In particular, the letter called for $600 million in funding provisions for new Section 202 Housing for the Elderly homes and full renewal funding for Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance for the 2022 fiscal year. Her request mirrors LeadingAge’s ask for $600 million for new Section 202 homes in 2022.

These programs, Waters wrote, are some of the only ones that exclusively provide housing assistance and supportive services to seniors. She noted that the nation’s existing housing stock is unprepared to meet the escalating need for affordability, accessibility, social connectivity and supportive services that this population requires. Waters also cited a 2019 report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies that found that the number of cost-burdened senior households grew to a new high of almost 10 million in 2017, an increase of 200,000 households from the year before. 

“About half of these households are severely cost burdened, meaning they are spending more than 50% of their income on rent,” she wrote. “Older adults with such severe housing cost burdens spend significantly less on basic necessities like healthcare and food than their peers without housing cost burdens and may even be pushed into homelessness.” 

An Urban Institute report released in February also called for the expansion of HUD’s Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program. The recommendations came amid the agency’s finding that, over the next 20 years, almost all future net household growth will be among older adult households. A 16.1 million net increase in net households will occur by 2040; 13.8 million of those households will be headed by someone older than 65, and 40% of those (5.5 million) will be renters, according to the research. 

LeadingAge is asking its members to put in a request with their representatives to sign the letter by its April 23 deadline. Once the signatures have been gathered, the letter will be sent to House majority and minority appropriators. A similar letter also will be circulating soon within the Senate, LeadingAge noted.