Better Affordable Housing Needed for Seniors and People with Disabilities

November 6, 2009
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Testimony on how to expand affordable housing options for seniors and Americans with disabilities was at the top of the agenda at a Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development hearing last week. Senator Chris Dodd, chairman of the Banking Committee, joined Congressman Chris Murphy, in calling for the modernization of federal housing assistance programs to ensure they can meet the needs of low-income residents.

Murphy spoke about his bill to modernize the Section 811 housing program, noting that the current program was not meeting increased demand for supportive housing units. “There are approximately 1.3 million non-elderly disabled households with what HUD defines as ‘worst-case needs’—meaning they are very low income, pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent, and they live in substandard housing.” Murphy called for more public-private partnerships to fund the program, which will give “more bang for our buck.” Murphy noted that the average capital cost of an 811 project is about $100,000 per unit plus a monthly rental payment equal to about $6,000 a year. Under his proposed legislation, the capital investment “is wiped out because the units are being built through existing credits and programs; and because they are already affordable units, the rent subsidy will be less than the $6,000 a year average.”

The House of Representatives passed Murphy’s bill in July, and Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee Chairman Robert Menendez has introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Dodd hopes to bring it before the Banking Committee in the coming months.