Mahoney's Housing Bill Passes with Unanimous Support in House
Mahoney bill supports affordable housing for low-income seniors Press Release
By WILLIAM E. GIBSON
Washington Bureau Chief
December 6, 2007
WASHINGTON Concerned about a critical shortage of affordable housing for low-income senior citizens, the House passed a bill on Wednesday intended to spark an expansion of subsidized apartments and improve services for residents.
The legislation would affect needy seniors nationwide, but would have a special impact on South Florida and along the Treasure Coast, where hurricane damage, rising costs and a large population of retirees create widespread demand for affordable options.
"A large number of seniors are on waiting lists. The need and the demand are much higher than the market's ability to meet it or the federal incentives to provide it," said Robert McFalls, executive officer of the Area Agency on Aging of Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. "Hopefully this legislation will alleviate that."
The bill — sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens — would change federal housing rules to make it easier to finance construction and maintenance of subsidized apartments for the elderly. For example, charitable groups and other managers of housing complexes for low-income seniors could tap equity in existing buildings to obtain loans at low rates to enhance or expand.
The bill also would provide bigger subsidies for needy seniors whose housing costs have outstripped their income. And it would remove restrictions to allow housing managers to provide social services for tenants, such as transportation and medical services.
"In my home state of Florida, the toxic cocktail of rising gas prices, skyrocketing property taxes and exorbitant homeowner insurance has forced seniors to make difficult choices between paying their mortgage, putting food on the table or purchasing life-saving medications," Mahoney told the House. "Despite the increase in demand, the number of affordable housing units is shrinking."
The House passed the bill by voice vote with no sign of opposition. The Senate has not yet considered the legislation, but Mahoney said he was confident it would clear Congress without controversy.
The bill would overhaul the Housing and Urban Development program for senior citizens known as Section 202. Palm Beach County has 20 apartment complexes operating under this program, Broward County, 34; and Miami-Dade County, 132. Managers report waiting lists as long as three years.
"With the Baby Boom people hitting their 60s, the population of elderly is going to keep growing, growing, growing," said James Lynch, administrator of B'nai B'rith Apartments in Deerfield Beach. "We're in the middle of a housing crisis. You don't see many buildings being built right now. And people are living longer. It's going to lead to a growing demand."
William E. Gibson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-824-8256 in Washington.
Online Go to www.hud.gov for more information about the Section 202 housing program in Florida.
Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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