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Homeless Boomers?

April 9, 2002

AARP Warns Nation ?On The Verge Of Crisis? In Housing Elderly People

Inman News Features

AARP is sounding an alarm that the United States is ?on the verge of a crisis? in housing for elderly people. The organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons said if underlying problems aren?t addressed the shortage of housing for the Baby Boom generation eventually could rival the housing shortage the nation experienced at the end of World War II.

AARP Board Member Keith Campbell outlined the organization?s views on elderly housing issues earlier this year in a statement before a field hearing of the Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facilities Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century. He said the commission must identify the needs future older Americans will have for housing and supportive services (e.g., transportation, in-home health care and home-delivered meals) that will enable them to live independently for as long as possible.

"There is a deficit of affordable and appropriate housing for growing numbers of our older citizens," Campbell said. "The housing and health care services shortfall of today will turn into the housing and health care services crisis of tomorrow if our policy-makers fail to anticipate and act on the (future needs) of Baby Boomers who are of modest means."

Congress created the commission to study and report on the housing and health needs for the next generation of older Americans. The commission is empowered to offer specific policy and legislative recommendations to enhance services and increase affordable housing for this growing population segment.

AARP is proposing a number of solutions that it said will "avert the coming crisis in housing for older Americans." The proposals include:

adopting comprehensive and flexible approaches for dealing with housing and supportive services that expand options for addressing the physical and mental needs of older people;

creating a policy environment that encourages the private sector to develop a wider range of strategies for making home-based supportive services a viable option;

exploring additional tax incentives and other financing tools (e.g., the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and reverse mortgages) to make housing and supportive service options feasible;

reviewing legal and regulatory structures for unnecessary barriers and business financing practices that adversely affect availability and affordability of different forms of housing;

evaluating and using emerging technologies to enhance innovative approaches in housing construction and service delivery;

incorporating universal design concepts to permit new housing to better meet the lifespan needs of residents and help older people remain independent;

exploring opportunities to develop public-private partnerships to meet the housing needs of older Americans; and

promoting preserving and protecting the important role of home ownership, especially among moderate-income elders, in meeting the housing needs of older persons.

"If we fail to meet these challenges," Campbell said, "the likely result will be a crisis in both affordability and availability in housing, creating the possibility that we will see an America with a significant increase in underhoused underserved older citizens. And a result of this could be a substantial increase in costly and premature institutionalization of older people."

Copyright: Inman News Service

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