California’s $12 billion funding package to address housing and homelessness in the state includes $3 billion for the Health and Human Services Agency to create “clinically enriched behavioral health housing and funding for the renovation and acquisition of Board and Care Facilities and Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly,” according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

One aging services provider organization is hopeful that some of those dollars will directly benefit older adults.

“We are hopeful that this large chunk of $3 billion dedicated for housing people with the most acute physical health needs directly impacts older adults,” Megan Rose, LeadingAge California’s general counsel and director of social impact initiatives and housing policy, told McKnight’s Senior Living.

The package also includes $10.3 billion for affordable housing — $800 million of which is going toward preserving the state’s affordable housing stock. 

Rose said that LeadingAge California is hopeful that some of that money will be used to help Section 202 properties convert to using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) for Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC) program. Rose said this relatively new program allows aging Section 202 PRAC properties to convert to RAD contracts to provide refinancing and major repair opportunities providers could not afford under the PRAC program.

Older adults also may be affected by a two-year, $5.8 billion investment in the Homekey program to create 42,000 new homeless housing units, Rose said. The Homekey program provides grants to local entities to acquire and rehabilitate a variety of housing types to serve the homeless or those at risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Property types include residential care facilities, hotels and vacant apartment buildings.

Rose said older adults could benefit from this program as long as the buildings are accessible.

Sally Michael, president and CEO of the California Assisted Living Association, said she also is optimistic about the governor’s announcement.

“We are pleased to see support for the construction, acquisition and rehab of adult and senior care facilities serving homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless,” Michael told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We applaud the governor and legislature’s focus on supporting these vulnerable populations.”

Newsom signed the largest funding and reform package for housing and homelessness in the state’s history as part of the $100 billion California Comeback Plan. But LeadingAge California said more needs to be done to help older adults.

“While we applaud the governor and legislature for funding solutions for homelessness, we highly recommend the state undertake intentional efforts to design programs that address the unique and complex needs of older adults,” Rose said.

LeadingAge California, she added, is “optimistic” that funding included in the state’s recent home- and community-based services spending plan, coupled with advancements in MediCal, California’s Medicaid healthcare program, can help fill some of these opportunities for older adults.

Rose said because older adults experiencing homelessness have unmet mental and physical health needs, mortality rates are higher than the general population because they feel the effects of aging sooner than their housed counterparts.