A Senior Moment: For Baby Boomers and Beyond
By Marsha Andrews, J.D.
Last month, we discussed the imminent age-wave of baby boomers turning sixty-five in King County and how this “tsunami” has maxed out affordable housing, according to the 2009 report entitled “Quiet Crisis.” We also talked about the Housing Forum, scheduled for November17, 2016. Since then, I have been informed that the forum will be held at 9:00a at the New Holly Gathering Hall, located at 7054 32nd Avenue South in Seattle. Again, save the date. This will be very informative for everyone who is either a home owner- seeking ways to age in place or renters seeking housing – guiding them thru the application process or areas relating to current market inventory.
This month, we will discuss a plausible solution to the back drop on the housing crisis. As you recall, the 2009 report talked about the characteristics of King County Seniors and how we could find answers to four major questions, as they relate to housing, such as 1) societal trends, 2) the differentiation between historical housing challenges versus today’s challenges, 3) types of housing and supportive services needed and 4) what actions can we take (as a community) to address the needs that are emerging.
Since this is an election year, I thought we could address the act of becoming (as a community) an advocate for senior housing. Advocates can help make affordable housing an election issue. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has created a national campaign that we, as a community, can carry the same message to our State Legislators. It gives us a “voice,” not only to be heard but also the opportunity to influence Congress on these important issues. Such issues include, but are not limited to, increasing federal spending on key programs, expanding and improving the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and housing needs as it relates to criminal justice reform. ALL of these issues affect the lives of each baby boomer and it is time that we let our elected officials know our concerns.
Here are some of the issues that you can discuss with your legislators by either making a simple phone call or writing a letter -asking them to 1) Enact spending bills that will increase affordable housing resources. On the Federal level, this is important because none of the 12 spending bills (including spending for affordable housing and community development) has been signed into law. It is important on the State level because once the bills have been signed into law, budgets are introduced by your legislator, certain appropriations are set aside, and through your “voice” as an advocate, you will receive more community resources and options on how to age in a friendly and safe environment, as a home owner or a tenant.
2) Expand and Improve the Housing Credit. Our State Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), along with Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2016. The bill (S.3237), included an expansion of the Low-Income Tax Credit (Housing Credit) by 50% over a five year period. It addressed the housing needs of the homeless, extremely low income seniors, families with children, the disabled and Native American communities. The 50% basis boost would strengthen the Housing Credit and preserve existing affordable housing. As an advocate, ask your State Senators to cosponsor the expansion of the Housing Credit Act so that it may better serve the homeless, low-income seniors, the disabled, families with children and the Native American communities.
3) Include Housing in Criminal Justice Reform. This part of the housing component is an oversight. While some of the bills may include some verbiage about housing, none include a comprehensive plan to meet the housing needs of or reduced barriers for returning prisoners to society. Statistics show that once a prisoner has been released from prison, the likelihood for them to return to a neighborhood of familiarity is high. However, criminal records create barriers for obtaining affordable housing, which places them at risk of becoming homeless, which may result in their return to a life of crime and ultimate incarceration. This makes the rate of recidivism very high. As an advocate, tell your State Representative that any criminal justice reform legislation must include a comprehensive plan to address the housing needs of ex-offenders, as proposed in the Fair Chance and Housing Act (introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters), (D-CA).
4) Join the “Make Room” Campaign.
As an advocate, be a part of this movement by sending a message to your Congress person about the growing housing affordability crisis and how it must end. The goal is to send 1 million messages to Congress about maintaining the need for affordable housing. Since August 1st, the “Make Room” Campaign has featured a national sign-on letter and an advocacy tool kit on their website. The message campaign to Congress will end November 1, 2016. For more information regarding this campaign, contact Sarah Mickelson email@example.com.
5) Make Affordable Housing an Election Issue. As stated earlier, this is your chance to tell your elected officials your concerns. Take a pro-active stance by arranging personal office visits, either in their local district office(s) or in Olympia, if time permits. Attend candidate forums or town hall meetings and participate in open-discussions regarding the housing issue. While engaged, give them personal stories on how you or someone you know have been affected by the housing crisis. Ask them how they plan to address the affordable housing issue. Provide them with a questionnaire that asks ALL candidates to state their positions on affordable housing policies and how they propose to end homelessness in King County. Write articles in local newsletters or blogs that challenge candidates to discuss affordable housing as critical components to their campaign. Finally, follow up on campaign statements or events with letters to the editor or op-eds that explain why affordable housing should be a priority.
You can make a difference by contacting your state and local officials. Also, to recap, the “Housing Forum” for seniors is scheduled for November 17th at the New Holly Gathering Hall, located at 7054 – 32nd Avenue South in Seattle from 9a – 12p. To register, please contact Gigi Meinig, (Seattle King County Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services) by email: Gigi.Meinig@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-0660. For more information on the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), visit their website at www.nlihc.org. Remember, the “voice” of an advocate brings change for those in need. Thanks for sharing another “senior moment” with me. Until next time …