For several decades now, New Hampshire’s community action agencies and other fine nonprofit sponsors have developed more than 1,000 units of new and affordable rental housing for low-income people 62 years and older all across our state.
The funding source for these apartments has been the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 202 program.
Southern New Hampshire Services, in particular, has developed and now manages almost two dozen such residences – totaling almost 800 apartments by this time next year – bringing clean and safe housing not only to the cities of Nashua, Rochester and Manchester, but also to the small towns of Pittsburg, Campton and Greenfield, among others.
Most 202 units are occupied by women – oftentimes widowed – who were simply unable to maintain the expense of keeping up a single-family home any longer.
Today, the 202 program is under attack in Washington, D.C. Last year, President Barack Obama zeroed out the program in his proposed fiscal year 2012 budget, and more recently the Senate moved to eliminate the new development portion of the program altogether.
In other words, if the president and Senate have their way, there will be zero 202 units built in the future – and America’s seniors will be the losers.
As recently as fiscal year 2010, the 202 program included $371 million for new development of more than 2,700 new units of supportive housing for seniors throughout the country.
There are still 10 seniors on the waiting list for every 202 unit that comes online, according to the AARP. Almost without exception, as soon as SNHS opens a new and fully occupied residence here, other seniors are asking if they can be alerted to any units that might open up.
A 2008 HUD study recommends funding 10,000 units of Section 202 housing each year for the next 10 to 15 years to meet the demand. It is clear a comprehensive national policy for affordable housing and services is needed or the current senior housing crisis will intensify.
Today, we’re asking Congress to restore meaningful funding levels for the Section 202 program to include new development.
New Hampshire’s senior citizens of today and in the future deserve no less.
Gale F. Hennessy is executive director of Southern New Hampshire Services, Hillsborough County’s Community Action Agency, and president of the New Hampshire Community Action Association.
A reprint of an original guest commentary that appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on November 6, 2011. Reprinted with permission. http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/