B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned that a major funding freeze for a vital housing program for low-income seniors could have devastating consequences for millions of older Americans.The president’s 2011 budget provides no construction funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 program, which helps build and subsidize housing for low-income elderly Americans.
There are positive aspects in the budget for seniors and their families, including funding for home and community-based services and increased funding for caregiver support programs. But even in a fiscal crisis, we are seriously concerned about the long-term consequences of eliminating construction funding for an entire year—currently there is a 10 person waiting list per unit of subsidized housing. In previous years, 6,000 to 8,000 new units were built each year.
“This is an area that simply cannot sustain such a profound level of cuts and still be effective,” said B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick. “The long waiting list for housing demonstrates how the program is indispensable. For too many, Section 202 could be the difference between a safe, independent way of life and homelessness.”
As the largest Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly, B’nai B’rith has worked closely with HUD for more than three decades. Seniors who qualified for the program based on meeting federal low income standards, no matter their race, color, religion, gender, handicap or national origin, have access to safe and affordable housing that allows them to live independently at rates they can afford.
“While we are not opposed to making the program more efficient, we are extremely concerned over the dire consequences of a fiscal year with no construction, when the waiting list is already so long,” said B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark Olshan. “As our population ages, demand for subsidized housing will only grow. There must be some middle ground for desperate seniors-in-need.”
B’nai B’rith recognizes the difficult fiscal times we face and that tough choices must be made. But it is precisely because of these difficulties that programs such as Section 202 are perhaps more essential than ever.