D.C. Council member Tommy Wells has introduced legislation to help pay rent for “low-income and very-low income seniors,” according to a statement released by his office.
The Housing Assistance Program for Unsubsidized Seniors Act of 2013 was sponsored by Wells and co-sponsored by Council members Yvette Alexander, Anita Bonds, David Grosso and Kenyan McDuffie. It would provide assistance to residents over the age of 65 whose rental payments exceed 35 percent of their income.
“Because of the rising costs of living and the rising costs of health care, District seniors are more and more frequently confronted by homelessness,” Wells said in the statement. “It is unacceptable that District seniors are being forced to choose between paying for medicine and food or paying their rent.”
In September, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council reported that “strong demographic trends, economic insecurity and lack of affordable senior living have contributed to increased housing instability among seniors,” the statement said. In May, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 25 percent of the senior citizens who live in the nation’s capital, about 25,000 men and women, live at or below the poverty level.
A study from 2011 by the Homeless Research Institute of the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that the number of homeless senior citizens will increase significantly by 2020 and will double from the current number by the year 2050, the statement said.
“A great contributor to this phenomenon is the fact that the Baby Boomer Generation is now hitting 65,” said AARP’s blog. “Already, about 45 million Americans are considered senior citizens and according to U.S. Census projections, that number is expected to grow to 60 million, topping off at 90 million by the year 2050. These numbers mean that added services such as housing, health care, and nutrition will greatly be needed.”
The council members who proposed the measure believe the number of homeless senior citizens can be reduced if seniors are given assistance through efforts like the rental assistance program and an effort proposed by Bonds to exempt senior citizens who are long-time residents of the District and earn less than $60,000 from paying property taxes.
“Too many longtime District residents have been forced to move away from the city they’ve helped build or worse fallen into homelessness,” Wells said. “It is time for the District to step up and [provide] the preventative assistance necessary to ensure our seniors do not end up homeless.”