Although policymakers have taken “bold steps” to support consumers and the economy as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, more needs to be done to support the housing needs of older adults, according to a new study from Harvard University.

“The State of the Nation’s Housing 2021” from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University noted that the pandemic underscored the need for more supportive housing for the nation’s aging population.

The pandemic disrupted the care and support systems for this vulnerable age group, which had the highest mortality rates from COVID-19, the authors wrote. At the same time, many older adults were enduring the effects of increased social isolation and facing difficulties accessing food and medications.

According to the Joint Center report, older adults living in affordable senior housing benefited from on-site service coordinators to help meet their needs.

“Expanding the availability of service coordinators to more properties would be an important step in supporting the health and safety of older adults during the recovery from the pandemic, as well as in more typical times,” the authors wrote.

One of LeadingAge’s 20201 policy priorities is funding to expand the number of service coordinators in affordable senior housing. Currently, according to the association, only 45% of Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly communities have a service coordinator. 

Congress increased funding for service coordinators in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fiscal year 2021 funding, and HUD has requested $100 million for 400 new service coordinator grants for fiscal year 2022.

LeadingAge is seeking a $1 billion investment for 3,867 service coordinators — which LeadingAge calls the “lynchpin between residents and home- and community-based services — for HUD-assisted senior communities. 

Linda Couch, LeadingAge vice president for housing policy, previously called the Section 202 program the nation’s “flagship federal program” for affordable housing for older adults. She said it is critical for Congress to support additional funding to the program to not only expand the number of onsite services coordinators, but also to increase housing stock, provide age-friendly retrofits to existing housing, and support broadband internet access for telehealth and fighting social isolation.