Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is 'Affordable' Senior Housing in Your Parent's Future?

For many elders on limited incomes, "affordable senior housing" is a magical term. It promises low and/or subsidized rents, plus services and social contact. Perhaps it's an answer to your aging parent's prayers.

Low-income senior housing began in the early 60s with the HUD model. More recently other subsidized programs have sprung up nationwide to fill in the gap between fixed incomes and rising rents. These affordable options have the following characteristics:

Location: Affordable housing programs are often located near bus lines, hospitals, medical clinics, senior centers and shopping.

Services/Amenities: Most affordable senior apartments don't have a dining program. They offer limited transportation--trips to the grocery store, senior center, and infrequent excursions. Monthly potlucks, frequent card and game nights, and exercise classes are examples of calendar items and are generally led by volunteers. With notable exceptions, assisted living is not usually located on campus.

Age Qualifications: In most communities, residents must be at least 55 or 62. Some affordable senior apartments accept disabled younger people.

Financial Qualifications: Eligibility is based on a percentage of the median household income of the surrounding area. For example, in Bellevue, Washington, where I work at Evergreen Court Retirement and Assisted Living Community, our residents qualify for the tax credit (subsidized) program if their income is not more than $36,000 for a single or $41,100 for a couple. That number is 60% of the median household income of King County.

The next post will profile three different kinds of senior affordable housing. Stay tuned!

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