Guest blog from Rose Dunn, Executive Director of Mora Housing and Redevelopment Authority
When I began working for the Mora HRA nearly nine years ago, there was a waiting list of 82 families for 67 affordable/subsidized units. Since that time, the HRA has added 23 units of senior subsidized apartments. And yet, today there are 277 families on the waiting list for 90 units. Of those, 220 are older adults (over 55). And the demand will only continue to rise as many more people are just a few years from retiring. (Over one third of our region’s total population are 55 and older).
Over the years, we’ve learned that many of our seniors are not able to afford market rate housing. A 2014 housing study of Kanabec County revealed a need for the addition of 65 units of affordable senior housing with need projected to increase to 89 units by 2019.
When alternatives are not available, older adults will remain in their homes even when it is no longer safe for them to do so or be forced to move to where housing is available, often distancing them from their families and friends. We can and must do better for our seniors.
The Mora community is coming together to address the need and creating a roadmap for the future. Mora HRA is currently engaging a developer for the creation of a 34-unit senior housing development with services that would serve a wide range of income levels. The envisioned project will be the fourth phase of development in the HRA’s Eastwood senior campus, which already includes Vasa House (HUD 202 senior independent living apartments), Eastwood Senior Living (assisted living and memory care) and Eastwood Life Enrichment Center (a senior community center).
Despite these ongoing efforts to build more senior housing in Mora, there are currently not enough local and state resources to meet the need. Mora is not alone. All across Minnesota, communities face a shortage of affordable housing options for their older residents. Read a recently released statewide study of the shortage here. In order to serve our older adults, we require partnership with the state.
This legislative session, the Homes for All coalition is requesting a $130 million in bonds for housing, including affordable senior housing.
This proposed investment is key to the Mora community moving forward with solutions that will allow seniors to age in place. Throughout the state, this investment will develop or preserve housing for 4,100 households. As lawmakers begin the process of crafting the state bonding bill, housing should be at the top of the list.
A note from MHP on existing resources for seniors:
In 2012, Congress eliminated the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Capital Advance Program which was the only federal program to fund development of new units for low-income, older adults. Older adults can live in housing developments funded by the federal housing tax credit program. These developments do not always serve the needs of older adults and, under current guidelines, these developments cannot be age restrictive. There is no other federal or state program dedicated to creating housing for the state’s older adult population.