Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Local Programs Maintain Housing for Aging, Report Says

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Local Programs Maintain Housing for Aging, Report Says

Article excerpt

Low-income aging Americans, faced with the threat of having to move from their communities, could stay in those communities through local assistance and innovative programs, according to The Maturing of America--Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population, a report from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Washington, D.C, and the MetLife Foundation, New York. The report follows up on a 2005 survey of more than 1,400 cities and counties in the United States that looked at the "aging readiness" of America's communities. The current report said communities, at best, maintained status quo for the past six years because of overall economic decline and local government budgets.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents reported housing program availability remained "roughly the same" as in 2005, as home-maintenance and repair-assistance programs were still in place. The report said even under economic duress, local communities could develop policies, programs and services to make them better places for aging individuals.

The report recommends "thoughtful adaptation of zoning and land-use policies, coordination of housing and transportation planning and enhancement of programs and services that keep older adults actively engaged in the community."

For example, the Safe, Mixed-income, Accessible, Reasonably priced Transit-oriented (S.M.A.R.T.) Housing policy initiative, designed to stimulate production of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents of Austin, Texas, meets the city's green-building standards throughout its neighborhoods.

"Through the S.M.A.R.T. Housing policy, the city of Austin provides fee waivers and S.M.A.R.T. Housing development review, typically faster than conventional review," the report said. "This initiative applies to new single-family, multifamily and infill development."

In Pima County, Arizona, to expand the stock of lifelong housing, the Pima County Board of Supervisors passed an Inclusive Home Design Ordinance requiring all newly built homes in the unincorporated areas of the county around Tucson to offer "a basic level of accessibility."

The ordinance required homes to be built with at least one entrance with no step, and doors to be at least 32 inches wide. The ordinance also requires lever door handles, reinforced walls in ground-floor bathrooms to make it easy for an occupant to install grab bars, light switches no higher than 48 inches, and hallways 36 inches wide throughout the main floor.

"We hope that local governments will take notice and take swift action to ensure that their communities address the needs of all citizens across the lifespan in their communities," said Sandy Markwood, chief executive officer of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. "It is going to take a collective effort from community leaders, agencies on aging, universities, businesses, non-profit organizations and other public-sector entities to act swiftly and break through the current stalemate," he said.

In Miami, the Alliance for Aging Inc. partnered with the Broadband Coalition, the City of Miami, Florida International University and other organizations to design a project targeting a 1,000-unit public-housing complex for elderly residents. The project would leverage available technology to provide broadband connections and computer instruction, combining a "technologically sophisticated wi-fi approach for the public-housing complex and include more age-relevant software and training," according to the report. …

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