Recent reports show that seniors living on limited incomes are falling prey to poverty. Taking data from the 2014 Current Population Survey, the Census Bureau reports that one in seven people, or 15% of people aged 65 and older have incomes below the Supplemental Poverty Measures. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) stated that half of all Medicare-eligible people in 2013 had incomes of less than $23,500, which is equivalent to 200% of poverty levels in 2015.
While the statistics are not trending well, residents of Washington D.C. may look to pool as many community, state, and federal resources as they can to help fund low income seniors who need help with housing.
The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is the housing agency for the District of Columbia. The agency provides residents of Washington D.C with programs and services that help them find and obtain affordable housing opportunities at every income level. In addition to the programs and services that DHCD directly provides, they have partnered with community based organizations that offer additional programs and services.
This agency provides counseling on housing, helps residents find low income housing, and helps residents understand their rights under the law.
The District of Columbia has a free online search engine site called DCHousingsearch.org that residents can use to find affordable housing listings. Listing include single family homes, condos, and apartments that are for sale or for rent. The site also helps residents find helpful resources such as renters’ rights information and assistance programs. The site’s affordability calculator is a quick way for families to find housing within their budgets.
The high rate of poverty for Washington D.C. seniors has led to area housing reform. Adrian Fenty, the 2009 Mayor, wanted to revitalize underserved communities. As part of his plan, he granted DHCD the authority to monitor and enforce compliance with requirements to provide or maintain Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU’s). The rules that qualify dwellings as an ADU are somewhat subjective and Washington D.C. is taking steps to try to standardize the program. The current program includes homes that are for sale or for rent at below market rates. These units are restricted for low income households.
Seniors with low incomes may be forced out of their homes if they cannot pay their rent or mortgages. DHCD uses a partner network of Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) to provide counseling services and training to seniors who are tenants or homeowners. These agencies may be able to prevent foreclosures. The counseling services also offer credit counseling, home and budget management, assistance with applying for programs, and help with housing locating or relocating.
Housing counselors can also assist renters to understand their rights and responsibilities, which can help prevent displacement. Seniors can use the service to review a lease, get eviction counseling, and answer questions about apartment or lease management. Seniors can get a one-on-one appointment for individual matters or take a workshop to increase their general knowledge.
A little help for seniors can go a long way. Many low income seniors find that they can manage normal expenses, but there is no money left to make habitational repairs or modifications for disabilities. DHCD offers home repair programs to assist eligible single family homeowners. The program offers funding for roof repairs and replacement, abatement of lead paint hazards, and handicap modifications such as adding ramps, hall rail bars, and shower safety bars.
One of the programs is called the Single Family Residential Rehabilitation Program (SFRRP). Through this program, seniors can get a loan or grant for a maximum of $75,000 to address Washington D.C. building code violations, threats to health and safety, and roof work.
There is another program called Lead Safe Washington (LSW) that provides grants of up to $17,500 per housing unit to families with low to moderate incomes. Residents of the home must include pregnant women or children under the age of six who reside in the home. Low income families often have extended families living together in one home. Grandparents who are raising their children or grandchildren may be able to take advantage of this program.
The program is also open to investor-owners of buildings that were built prior to 1978. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Healthy Homes, and Lead Hazard Control provide funding for lead paint abatement.
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