The number of Americans over the age of 65 grows by 10,000 every day, and with that growth, the crisis in affordable housing for those seniors living just above or below the poverty line grows more extreme. Waiting lists exceeding 6 months are common place around the country for subsidized housing and often times 12-24 months waiting time is the case according to AARP. Subsidized housing eligibility is determined by income level and qualifying limits are $23,150 for a single person and $26,450 for a two person household.

I undertook a random survey of local subsidized senior housing and found that waiting lists mirror the national trend. Westchester on Delaware Ave. in Kenmore has about 300 people on the list and translates to roughly 12-18 months wait time. Carnation in West Seneca, Brewster Mews and Daffodil in Amherst all reported waiting lists of between 200-250 people translating into anywhere from 9-18 months wait time depending on turnover. The waiting lists in the City of Buffalo at Riverview in Black Rock, Roosevelt on the Far East Side and La Casa de Los Tainos on the West Side all approached one year with various numbers of people on the wait list.

I have some sobering data here that might stop you from reading further but the truth is while many government agencies acknowledge the problem, little is being done to solve the growing housing crisis for seniors who are just getting by at this income level. A study produced by the US Census Bureau by in 2011 indicated that 16% or nearly 1 out of 6 people over the age of 65 are living below the federally established “poverty line”. The stratification of data by sex and race reveals even more startling numbers such as 43% of Hispanic women are living alone and 34% of Black women living alone do so in poverty. In arriving at these determinations, the Census Bureau utilized a more comprehensive tool called the Supplemental Poverty Measure that takes into consideration out-of-pocket medical expenses and taxes in arriving at a definition of poverty. The Henry Kaiser Foundation issued a report in May 2013 applying this measure on a state-by-state basis and it tells us that 18% on NY seniors live at or below the poverty line. The need for affordable housing is further complicated by the accompanying need for accessibility that comes with advancing age and deteriorating physical abilities.

So, here?s the problem ? many elders living alone in poverty with no way out accept for housing programs that have very long wait times – so what needs to be done to improve this situation? I will attempt to answer this complicated question to some degree in Part 2 of this series that will be published in the near future.

Reprinted with permission of the Buffalo News Homefinder.

Check in with our blog on Wednesday to read part two of this article!