Advocates bring attention to affordable housing

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More than 1,100 residents of Section 202 housing joined members of Congress Tuesday at a LeadingAge rally in Washington to advocate for affordable housing funding.
More than 1,100 residents of Section 202 housing joined members of Congress Tuesday at a LeadingAge rally in Washington to advocate for affordable housing funding.

Most eyes on Washington may be focused on healthcare reform right now, but advocates for seniors and seniors housing ensured that affordable housing received some attention, too, on Tuesday, holding a rally in Upper Senate Park outside the Capitol.

More than 1,100 residents of communities supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program joined members of Congress at the LeadingAge event, according to the organization. The event was part of the LeadingAge's Save HUD 202 campaign.

Three goals of the effort are to:

  1. Prevent cuts to the Section 202 program.
  2. Maintain 100% funding for the people served by affordable housing today.
  3. Expand funding to create new affordable housing for older adults. “Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people on waiting lists for affordable housing units,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan told the crowd. Of 4 million older adults eligible for HUD rental assistance programs, only 1.4 million receive assistance due to lack of funding, according to LeadingAge.

Overall, HUD would receive $40.7 billion in gross discretionary funding under a fiscal year 2018 budget proposal released in March by the White House Office of Management and Budget. That's a decrease of 13.2% from 2017.

Sloan said she is “deeply troubled” by proposed cuts in the HUD budget that won't provide sufficient funds to renew all of the rental assistance contracts that subsidize Section 202 housing.

Many rally attendees came from nearby states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia — but some came from as far away as California, according to LeadingAge. Members of Congress who were invited included Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. David Price (D-NC), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Casey, the event's final speaker, brought the focus partially back to healthcare reform — specifically, Medicaid — and vowed to protect Medicaid in addition to fighting for funding for affordable senior housing.

Senate Republicans' proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act to replace the Affordable Care Act would cut Medicaid by $772 billion through 2026, whereas House Republicans' proposed American Health Care Act to replace Obamacare would cut Medicaid by $834 billion during that time, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

“Many of the recipients of Section 202 housing rely on Medicaid for their healthcare and their long-term care,” said Casey, the ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “We've got to fight like hell to keep 202 and keep Medicaid.”

The rally is available to watch via video clips posted on the LeadingAge Facebook page.

LeadingAge is continuing its Save HUD 202 campaign. The National Low Income Housing Coalition also is organizing an Our Homes, Our Voices Week of Action July 22 to 29, with events across the country to advocate for affordable housing for people of all ages.

Read more about proposed budget cuts and healthcare reform in the articles listed below under “Related Articles.”

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