Former Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Sen. Mel Martinez answer questions at the BPC event.

Calling the Section 202 program “the lifeblood of senior housing,” a former Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary told a March 23 gathering that he suspects that current funding issues related to the affordable housing program represent a short-term financial matter rather than a long-term policy decision.

But former Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican who was HUD secretary from 2001 to 2003, told those attending the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Senior Health and Housing Regional Forum in Philadelphia that he doesn’t really know what the future holds for the program that finances the development of supportive housing for the elderly by providing interest-free capital advances to private, nonprofit sponsors.

“202 has been such an integral part of elderly housing that I can’t conceive that that’s a long-term policy decision,” said Martinez, who is chairman of the Southeast U.S. and Latin America for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and co-chairs BPC’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force. “I have to believe that it’s more related to a short-term funding issue, related to sequestration or goodness knows what.”

Martinez, the keynote speaker at the event, addressed the 202 program in a question-and-answer period following his talk.

Another participant in the event, former Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat, said continued public response to the issue may have a positive effect.

“I see it also as related to the fact that there’s just been such a reduction in the investment in the infrastructure in this country,” said Schwartz, president and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance and another co-chair of the BPC’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force. “The notion that that isn’t going to matter to us as a nation and to our communities in the future is very short-sighted.”

The forum included additional presentations and panel discussions. Video of the entire event is posted on the BPC website.