Since I started my job at B’nai B’rith International, I have written several blogs being critical of the Trump Administration and Congress’ proposals to cut funding from affordable housing. Over the past twenty months, there have not been many opportunities to applaud our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. for bi-partisan legislation that looks to tackle the severe shortage of reasonably priced homes in this country. Consequently, the recently introduced bipartisan Senate legislation, called the Task Force on the Impact of the Affordable Housing Crisis Act, should be positively recognized. The purpose of this task force is to study how affordable housing financially impacts other government programs (federal, state and local), different facets of people’s lives (i.e. health, nutrition, education, employment, etc.) and make policy recommendations to Congress on how affordable housing can strengthen additional federal programs.
Working at B’nai B’rith offers me the unique opportunity to see how housing is intertwined with other areas of senior’s lives, especially health care. One of the goals of B’nai B’rith is to “age in place” which we accomplish through our sponsored Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202 housing. Older Americans are able to “age in place” because service coordinators connect residents with community based services, which have demonstrated a greater likelihood of retaining residents in their existing buildings and therefore avoiding more pricey institutions like a nursing home.
The benefits of the Section 202 program go to the very heart of what this potential task force is hoping to accomplish, that is, to find ways affordable housing can help other federal programs. For example, the financial cost of three seniors in a Section 202 building with home and community-based services is about the same as one person in a nursing home. Keep in mind that Medicaid is a key subsidizer of nursing homes. According to HUD, 38 percent of Section 202 tenants are frail or near-frail, and consequently need help with daily activities, making them potential candidates for long-term institutional care. Therefore, the more Section 202 buildings that can be developed for frail or near-frail seniors, the less financial resources Medicaid will require for nursing homes.
In addition, bi-partisan policy solutions generally have a better chance of becoming law, especially in the Senate. This legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Angus King (I-Maine), along with cosponsors from both political parties. Furthermore, the people who serve on the Task Force will be appointed by both Democrats and Republicans. These Senators should be commended for taking an important “first step” toward discovering how integral affordable housing is to other federal programs.
Obviously, the introduction of this legislation is a far cry away from being sent to the president’s desk for his signature, and even further away from any policy recommendations from the task force to Congress. However, you have to walk before you can run. Hopefully, this legislation becomes a reality, and the policy proposals are Congress’ full sprint towards creating additional affordable housing in the country.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
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