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A bill is seeking to increase the capacity of assisted living communities in California to address the growing demand for housing and care among the state’s older population.

Assembly Bill 1993 would increase the capacity of residential care facilities for the elderly in California from six to eight residents while they remain a residential use for local zoning purposes. According to the California Department of Social Services, there are a total of 7,473 licensed residential care facilities for the elderly in the state, of which 5,790 serve six or fewer residents each. 

The bill passed the House last month and was referred last week to the Senate Committee on Human Services. 

Bill sponsor Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) said that as a result of a limited supply of housing, coupled with the rising cost of living, more California families are being displaced or forced into financial hardship. 

AB 1993, Kalra said, would make available homes for thousands of residents, providing both housing and care for the state’s aging population. She also said the bill aligns with a housing goal in the state’s master plan on aging.

“Older adults are the fastest-growing population of unhoused persons in California, and those who require assistance with daily activities have an exceptionally hard time finding accommodations,” Kalra wrote in a statement. “The will will help older adults remain in their communities and in proximity to their loved ones, while receiving the 24-hour non-medical care they need.”

According to the US Census Bureau, 15.8% of the state’s population is aged more than 65 years. Estimates show that 22% of the states’ population will be aged more than 60 years by 2030, and one in four (23.1%) of Californians will be aged more than 65 years by 2040.

The California Interagency Council on Homelessness reported that older adults are the fastest growing population of homeless adults in California, with the number of adults aged more than 55 years experiencing homelessness growing by 90% since 2017, whereas the number of homeless adults aged more than 65 years increased by 166%. 

Groups supporting the bill include the AARP, the California Assisted Living Association and LeadingAge California.

LeadingAge California called the bill “an important step toward increasing the state’s capacity to care for older adults.” “With the demographics of older adults in California rapidly changing, access to supportive services and housing, including assisted living services, is vital,” Vice President of Legislative Affairs Amber King told McKnight’s Senior Living.

While the bill was amended to reduce the expansion from 10 to eight residents, the California Assisted Living Association said it supported the bill, which will allow those residential care facilities for the elderly to still be treated like a family residence for zoning and “use” purposes, and licensing standards and building codes are met.

“CALA is committed to ensuring a broad model of care that promotes consumer choice and supports a variety of environments to meet the needs and preferences of older adults,” CALA President and CEO Sally Michael told McKnight’s Senior Living. “AB 1993 updates the RCFE Act to reflect the reality that many of today’s residential homes are larger than the current six-bed category limit was established.”

Michael added that the bill provided a “needed update” and will expand options for older adults consistent with California’s Master Plan for Aging “Housing for All Ages and Stages” goal.

The California Association of Realtors opposed the rule, stating that converting even more residential housing to commercial use would dramatically reduce home ownership opportunities for working families while driving up median home prices.