If you read newspapers you already know that the costs to rent or purchase housing is becoming increasingly less affordable to millions of persons, both for those on fixed retirement incomes as well as those who have not yet reached retirement.
RHF provides apartment units for persons with disabilities and for low-income families, but the majority of our units are for older adults whose only income is social security and perhaps a small pension.
The Graying of America
With the "graying of America" the numbers of persons 65 years of age and older is growing dramatically and while many in this
"age wave" have the financial resources they need, many do not. For those who have only small pensions, social security and a few assets, their only hope for safe, secure and affordable housing is through units built with the assistance of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the tax credit programs.
While the age wave is exploding, the numbers of new apartments built under the HUD 202 program has decreased from 20,000 units a year in the late 1970s and early 1980s to only about 4,600 a year now. Now, for the 2012 budget, construction of new HUD 202 communities has been cut altogether.
HUD acknowledges that the 202 program has been the finest senior housing program they have ever done. Sponsors, like RHF, who receive the annual awards must be legitimate non-profits which means that the affordability of the units is secure for 40 years or longer.
Persons who are fortunate to rent a unit pay 30% of their income as their share of the rent and the balance of the cost to operate the building is made up through a subsidy from HUD. Sponsors do not make a profit from construction or operations and receive only a management fee for management services. RHF applies for new units every year and usually receives several awards, which means we are always in the process of designing or constructing new buildings. In 2011, RHF received four grants totalling $40.6 million to build new communities in Los Angeles, Houston and San Antonio - the most grants awarded to any nonprofit in the nation.
We also build housing under the state and federal tax credit programs but since these buildings do not have a rent subsidy, persons whose only income is social security and a small pension generally cannot afford even the reduced tax credit rents, still there are a number of persons who benefits from these programs.
Preserving Affordable Housing in America
To make matters worse the United States is losing thousands of units of existing affordable housing annually. To incentivize for-profit developers to build affordable housing, 20+ years ago the government funded programs which helped to finance new construction with a promise that after 20 years owners could prepay the mortgage and convert the buildings to conventional housing at market rents or to condos. To be sure, existing renters are often given a subsidy voucher so they are not evicted, but when the unit turns over it is no longer available as affordable housing.
RHF has acquired a number of these buildings from willing sellers to preserve their affordability. Often these are large, well-built structures in desirable areas which, if converted to market rents or condos, would never be replaced again as affordable housing.
As a founding member of SAHF, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, RHF advocates for favorable legislation that influences preservation and encourages finding creative solutions to the affordability crisis.
Safe, secure affordable housing is a basic human need. As we say in our Vision Statement, we want to eliminate circumstances in which persons have to make desperate choices about whether to pay the rent, buy sufficient good food or purchase prescriptions and take them in the dosages prescribed by doctors. Another way of stating it is that it is illusionary to believe that we can have good healthcare in this nation unless persons have decent, safe, and secure affordable housing because affordable housing is the base which makes good health a possibility.
Our mission is about quality of life. Fifteen years ago at the dedication of a new building a new resident said to me, "I want to tell you my story. Six months ago my social security income was $790 a month. My rent was $550 a month and going up every 6 months. I want to thank you because you have made it possible for me to live and to enjoy life again."
The number of RHF communities has more than doubled in those 15 years. We are passionate about affordable housing because the demand is so great and because we want to have quality communities where people can live and enjoy life free from deprivation of basic human needs.
Laverne R Joseph
Retirement Housing Foundation