A Deeper Look At LeadingAge's Affordable Housing Policy Priorities

Regulation | April 21, 2021 | by Juliana Bilowich

LeadingAge recommends policy priorities for an improved senior housing portfolio, including enhanced services access and internet connectivity for HUD-assisted properties.

Building on LeadingAge's 2021 policy priorities and on the President’s goals of overcoming COVID-19, increasing climate resiliency, improving economic outcomes, and addressing racial inequities across the country, LeadingAge recommends the following areas to advance HUD’s affordable senior housing programs:

Equitable COVID-19 Recovery: Vaccine Access, Cost Offsets, and Operational Flexibilities

Affordable senior housing communities are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, and HUD is uniquely positioned to support older adults with low incomes during the pandemic. LeadingAge’s recommendations for HUD’s senior housing programs include increasing vaccine access at HUD-assisted properties, quickly disbursing CARES Act funds to help communities offset COVID-19 prevention costs, and providing operational flexibilities for housing providers.

Housing and Services

LeadingAge views service-enrichment as a cornerstone of HUD-assisted senior housing, and recommends that Service Coordination and resident programming be increased throughout HUD-assisted communities serving older adults. This includes committing to a Service Coordinator in every senior housing community, strengthening supportive services fees for properties to provide quality of life programming for residents, and leveraging Standards for Success reporting data to improve resident outcomes and support aging in community.

Internet Connectivity

Internet access at HUD-assisted senior housing communities benefits both residents and property operations, and yet most senior housing communities lack wall-to-wall internet. LeadingAge recommends that HUD-assisted senior housing property budgets cover baseline internet services costs for residents in their units; properties should also have access to internet capacity building retrofits, and the agency should engage in both intra- and inter-agency initiatives to effectively bridge the digital divide for older adults for low incomes.

Streamlined Portfolio Oversight and Asset Management

As the pandemic stretches from a short-term to long-term crisis, housing providers need continued supports and flexibilities to maintain healthy environments for older adult residents. LeadingAge considerations for the HUD-assisted senior housing portfolio include congressional budget requests for a robust, health-focused senior housing portfolio, as well as continued operational flexibilities, support for increased insurance rates, and flexibility around physical inspections.

Health-Centered Production and Preservation

Housing-insecure older adults need housing first. LeadingAge recommends efforts to preserve, improve, and increase the supply of affordable senior housing, and to shape new and preserved housing with an emphasis on health. In addition to Section 202 new construction funding awards that emphasize services and place-based health design components, LeadingAge’s recommendations include preservation strategies for maturing Section 202 communities and PRAC communities undergoing RAD conversion.

Federal Agency Partnerships and Collaborations

Housing is a key part of aging in community, and LeadingAge recommends investments in federal agency collaborations to enhance housing, health, and services access for older adults with low incomes. For example, LeadingAge recommends a reconvening of the Rental Policy Working Group to align federal rental housing efforts, as well as federal collaborations with CDC, CMS, FCC, and HRSA to improve vaccine access, connectivity, and health outcomes for HUD-assisted seniors.

Robust Fair Housing Protections

Fair Housing protections remain as critical as ever for the senior housing portfolio. LeadingAge’s considerations for an improved HUD-assisted senior housing portfolio include reinstating affirmative fair housing tools and quickly implementing expanded fair housing protections for LGBT+ older adults.

Disaster Preparedness and Resiliency Investments

HUD plays a key role in the country’s disaster response, whether during the COVID-19 pandemic or during natural disasters. In order to support senior housing communities and build climate resiliency, LeadingAge recommends an updated disaster guidance for providers, as well as automated relief options for rental housing programs and infrastructure investments for climate-impacted communities.

LeadingAge will continue to work with our partners at HUD, the White House, and other federal agencies to advance these considerations for an improved affordable senior housing portfolio. LeadingAge’s policy recommendations for improved HUD-assisted senior housing programs are available in detail here.