U.S. Rep. John Katko hedshot
U.S. Rep John Katko (R-NY) speaks.

A bipartisan measure is calling for an interagency study on senior housing design to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases in assisted living communities, affordable senior housing, nursing homes and other congregate settings.

The “Keeping Seniors Safe from COVID-19 Through Home Design Act” (H.R. 8540) calls for the federal Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture departments to work together.

“This measure will create a study to develop best practices in senior housing design to reduce the spread of highly contagious and easily transmitted diseases, such as COVID-19,” said U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY), who sponsored the bill. 

The bill, if passed as written, would require a study of potential community features such as updated HVAC systems, motion sensor sinks and expanded outdoor spaces. Researchers also would determine how such changes could be paid for under federal housing assistance and mortgage insurance programs. 

Katko said that findings would “ensure we can limit the spread of highly communicable diseases in senior living facilities and reduce the impact of any future pandemic or public health crisis on our seniors.”

“The outbreaks we’ve seen in adult living facilities across NY-19 and our country are heartbreaking,” said U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY), a co-sponsor of the bill. “In addition to increased financial assistance and access to testing, it is critically important that we determine what safety improvement can be made to protect our loved ones.”

The bill’s other co-sponsors include Reps. Max Rose (D-NY) and Ann Kuster (D-NH). 

The legislation has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.