Protesters want af­ford­able D.C. hous­ing

Pro­posed bud­get cuts would hurt elderly, they say

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY SARAH NEL­SON

A non­profit group that ad­vo­cates for se­nior ci­ti­zens ral­lied Tues­day near the U.S. Capi­tol to protest pro­posed fund­ing cuts in the fed­eral bud­get for af­ford­able hous­ing for low-in­come elderly peo­ple.

D.C.-based Lead­ingAge said the bud­get pro­posal does not pro­vide enough as­sis­tance for homes un­der Sec­tion 202 Sup­port­ive Hous­ing for the Elderly Pro­gram.

“What is oc­cur­ring to­day in the bud­get talks is noth­ing short of ageism,” said Stephen Flem­ing, chair­man-elect of Lead­ingAge. “We are de­plet­ing the re­sources for older adults.”

President Trump’s 2018 bud­get for the De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (HUD) in­cludes a 17 per­cent cut in investments for af­ford­able hous­ing and elim­i­nates the Hous­ing Trust Fund, which pre­serves and builds af­ford­able homes for low-in­come peo­ple.

The main ob­jec­tives of the Save HUD 202 cam­paign in­clude pre­vent­ing the pro­posed cuts to Sec­tion 202, main­tain­ing 100 per­cent fund­ing for se­niors served by af­ford­able hous­ing and ex­pand­ing the funds to cre­ate more af­ford­able houses for the elderly.

“We live in a coun­try where peo­ple make bil­lions per year,” said Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat. “If we can pay one per­son $3 bil­lion, surely we can pay the rent for per­sons who are on 202.”

The pro­gram of­fers hous­ing with ser­vice co­or­di­na­tion, which Lead­ingAge says helps se­niors main­tain in­de­pen­dence and avoid pre­ma­turely in­sti­tut­ing the older adults into a nurs­ing home.

Linda Couch, Lead­ingAge’s vice president of hous­ing pol­icy, says this ap­proach of in­vest­ing in af­ford­able hous­ing pays off.

About 400,000 adults cur­rently are housed un­der Sec­tion 202. The aver­age in­come for the se­niors is about $13,000 per year. With­out hous­ing pro­vided by HUD, the se­niors have nowhere to live, Lead­ingAge says.

A HUD spokesman has said the pro­posed bud­get is a “work in progress.”

Ms. Couch said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed cuts are not the first time af­ford­able hous­ing has faced bud­get prob­lems. Congress had pro­posed spend­ing caps for fed­eral pro­grams be­fore Mr. Trump took aim at af­ford­able hous­ing pro­grams.

Most may­ors place af­ford­able hous­ing as a top prob­lem in their cities, says Ms. Couch, but the is­sue is put on the back burner in Congress.

“We just need to make it more of a pri­or­ity for more peo­ple in the House and Se­nate,” she said.

In ad­di­tion to fac­ing “mas­sive” wait lists, se­niors qual­i­fied for Sec­tion 202 face raised rent prices in the pro­posed fed­eral bud­get, mean­ing less money for pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion and food on the table, Lead­ingAge says.

“As we de­bate the fed­eral bud­get here in Wash­ing­ton, I be­lieve that a bud­get is about val­ues,” said Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez, New Jer­sey Democrat. “And the bud­get President Trump sent to us isn’t the val­ues that we share as Amer­i­cans when it comes to public hous­ing [and help­ing se­niors].”

SARAH NEL­SON/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Par­tic­i­pants of the Save HUD 202 rally voice their sup­port for af­ford­able hous­ing for se­niors out­side the U.S. Capi­tol on Tues­day.

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