- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A nonprofit group that advocates for senior citizens rallied Tuesday near the U.S. Capitol to protest proposed funding cuts in the federal budget for affordable housing for low-income elderly people.

D.C.-based LeadingAge said the budget proposal does not provide enough assistance for homes under Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program.

“What is occurring today in the budget talks is nothing short of ageism,” said Stephen Fleming, chairman-elect of LeadingAge. “We are depleting the resources for older adults.”

President Trump’s 2018 budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) includes a 17 percent cut in investments for affordable housing and eliminates the Housing Trust Fund, which preserves and builds affordable homes for low-income people.

The main objectives of the Save HUD 202 campaign include preventing the proposed cuts to Section 202, maintaining 100 percent funding for seniors served by affordable housing and expanding the funds to create more affordable houses for the elderly.

“We live in a country where people make billions per year,” said Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat. “If we can pay one person $3 billion, surely we can pay the rent for persons who are on 202.”

The program offers housing with service coordination, which LeadingAge says helps seniors maintain independence and avoid prematurely instituting the older adults into a nursing home.

Linda Couch, LeadingAge’s vice president of housing policy, says this approach of investing in affordable housing pays off.

About 400,000 adults currently are housed under Section 202. The average income for the seniors is about $13,000 per year. Without housing provided by HUD, the seniors have nowhere to live, LeadingAge says.

A HUD spokesman has said the proposed budget is a “work in progress.”

Ms. Couch said the Trump administration’s proposed cuts are not the first time affordable housing has faced budget problems. Congress had proposed spending caps for federal programs before Mr. Trump took aim at affordable housing programs.

Most mayors place affordable housing as a top problem in their cities, says Ms. Couch, but the issue is put on the back burner in Congress.

“We just need to make it more of a priority for more people in the House and Senate,” she said.

In addition to facing “massive” wait lists, seniors qualified for Section 202 face raised rent prices in the proposed federal budget, meaning less money for prescription medication and food on the table, LeadingAge says.

“As we debate the federal budget here in Washington, I believe that a budget is about values,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat. “And the budget President Trump sent to us isn’t the values that we share as Americans when it comes to public housing [and helping seniors].”

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