Efforts by congressional Republicans to strip senior housing from President Joseph Biden’s American Jobs Plan are drawing outrage from LeadingAge, which represents 5,000 nonprofit seniors service providers.
“At a time when millions of older adults are facing hardships and when our older population is growing rapidly with untold needs and are fearing the near future, it’s unconscionable that anyone would even think of turning their back on them,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said late last week during a virtual press conference.
On Wednesday, the president unveiled details of the plan, which includes $2 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. The money would increase the supply of affordable housing and supportive services for very low-income older Americans. LeadingAge estimated the funding could add up to 22,000 units to the nation’s senior housing stock at a time when older Americans increasingly are aging in place.
But on Thursday, congressional Republicans responded to the plan, stripping away funding for seniors housing.
Volunteers of America (VOA) — one of the nation’s largest builders of senior affordable housing — said Section 202 funding is crucial since other financing alternatives have dried up in recent years. But, VOA Real Estate Development Senior Vice President Kimberly Black said that the pool of available money has been shrinking over the last decade. She said only about $150 million was available last year.
“We have created, on average, over the last five years about 500 units per year. Our goal is to grow that production and double it. To do that, we absolutely need access to funding such as that proposed in the jobs plan to actually build these homes, Black said.
Currently, the average wait time for subsidized seniors housing is two to five years. LeadingAge said if significantly more senior housing isn’t built, wait times could increase dramatically as the nation’s 72 million baby boomers head into retirement.
Besides cutting out funding for seniors housing, the Republicans’ plan revealed on Thursday would remove $400 billion in proposed funding for Medicaid home- and community-based services.