California Capitol Watch: Making Senior Housing More Inclusive — Affordable Intergenerational Housing

Share:
Photo: Juliette Fowler Communities

By Eric Gelber

In Davis, a local developer continues to grapple with the details of a program designed to exclude non “Davis-connected” buyers from moving into an age-restricted senior housing development. Meanwhile, in contrast, the City of Emeryville is sponsoring legislation to make senior housing more inclusive. SB 591 (Becker) would enable senior affordable housing projects to include non-seniors also in need of affordable housing—creating a more inclusive, intergenerational housing community.

What problem/issue would the bill address?

The author of SB 591 notes: “[F]oster youth are a vulnerable population in our state. … Each year around 3,500 Transition-Age Youth (TAY) exit foster care without having found a permanent home, causing emotional and cognitive dysfunction due to a lack of housing, food, safety, and difficulty reintegrating into society. Unfortunately, foster youth are the fastest growing homeless population in California, which puts them at risk of poverty and incarceration.”

SB 591 also recognizes that caregivers for seniors living in affordable housing are often in need of affordable housing themselves. Therefore, the bill would include otherwise qualified caregivers among those eligible to live in the 20% of units available to non-seniors. Caregivers would then be available to care for more than one senior living in the same development, which would be efficient and helpful.

Most affordable housing created in the state is funded in part by federal and state low income housing tax credits (LIHTC). LIHTC are used to develop housing for households that make up to 80% of the area median income. Generally, under federal Internal Revenue Service rules, if a residential unit is provided only for a member of a social organization or provided by an employer for its employees, the unit is not for use by the general public and is not eligible for federal LIHTC. However, federal IRS law also states that a qualified LIHTC project does not violate fair housing laws solely because of occupancy restrictions or preferences that favor tenants (a) with special needs, (b) who are members of a specified group under a federal program or state program or policy that supports housing for such a specified group, or (c) who are involved in artistic or literary activities.

Thus, tax credits may be used to help finance senior affordable housing for people age 55 and older, though it has come with a restriction prohibiting the financing of other types of affordable units in the same building. An affordable housing project aimed at serving seniors could not include some units for TAY or non-senior caregivers, despite the well-documented social and health benefits to seniors associated with building some units for TAY and caregivers in the same building. Without that opportunity, seniors are missing opportunities to access social and health benefits and services.

What would the bill do?

SB 591 would authorize the establishment of intergenerational housing developments for senior citizens, caregivers, or TAY if at least 80% of the units are occupied by at least one senior citizen (age 55 or older) and up to 20% of the units are occupied by at least one caregiver or TAY, and the development is an affordable rental housing development.

A “caregiver” means a person responsible for meeting the daily care needs of a senior citizen, or a person hired to provide live-in, long-term, or terminal health care to a qualifying resident. “Transition-age youth” means a person 18-24 years of age who is a current or former foster youth who was adjudged a ward or dependent of the juvenile court, or a homeless youth who meets the definition of “homeless children and youths” under federal law (the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987).

SB 591 would establish a state policy of providing intergenerational housing serving TAY and caregivers for seniors who otherwise qualify for affordable housing, and provides that housing established pursuant to its provisions must comply with all applicable state and federal fair housing laws.

Comments

SB 591 includes the following legislative findings and declarations:

  • A growing body of scientific research has linked social isolation and loneliness in seniors to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions, including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
  • Intergenerational housing decreases the health risks of social isolation and loneliness by surrounding seniors in communities with families and giving seniors structured opportunities to benefit from, and contribute to, the lives of young people. According to research conducted by the Eisner Foundation, nonmedical benefits of intergenerational housing for seniors also include improved mood and self-esteem, increased skills and knowledge, specifically around technology and culture, increased exercise, access to practical assistance in the form of help with chores and errands, and improved perception of young people.
  • Intergenerational housing has been successful at the award-winning Treehouse Easthampton community which combines seniors with foster families in western Massachusetts. Outcome data for this community over 11 years showcases the remarkable impact on the lives of youth.
  • Additional benefits of intergenerational housing for youth, according to research conducted by the Eisner Foundation, include improved social skills, increased emotional support, increased self-esteem, increased school attendance, increased knowledge and perspective of the past, and improved perception of elders.
  • This section is essential to establish and preserve specially designed, accessible, intergenerational housing for senior citizens. There are senior citizens who need special living environments and services and benefit from intergenerational housing environments, and there is an inadequate supply of this type of housing in the state.

The author states that SB 591 “will let California create a space for seniors and youth to interact and pave the way towards having multiple generations learning together while providing vulnerable individuals a place to live. The benefits are mutual, and this living situation creates a community that traditional forms of age-restricted housing cannot match.”

On the issue of financing, Emeryville Mayor Dianne Martinez explained, “[T]he options to pay for and build these projects are limited. Previously, tax credits were used to help finance senior affordable housing for people age 55 and older, though it came with a restriction that prohibited the financing of other types of affordable units in the same building. An affordable housing project aimed at serving seniors could not include some units for transition-aged youth, despite the well documented social and health benefits to seniors associated with building some units for TAY in the same building. Without that opportunity, seniors are missing opportunities to access social and health benefits and services.

“Here in Emeryville, there is a project at 4300 San Pablo Avenue that is 100% affordable and on city property. The project proposes 68 affordable units and affordability will go from 30-80 AMI%. 30-40% AMI for seniors and up to 80% AMI for youth. Unfortunately, this project, like many in our state, has hit a roadblock related to how to finance the project. Tax credits used to help finance senior affordable housing for people age 55+ however there is a restriction that prohibits the financing of other types of affordable units in the same building. An affordable housing project aimed at serving seniors could not include some units for transition-aged youth, despite the well documented social and health benefits to seniors of living with different age groups, such as transition age youth. In the absence of this law change, an affordable housing developer would need to build two separate buildings, which is physically and financially infeasible in most regions of our State.”

Federal law creates an exemption to the “general use” requirement, however, that allows the use of federal and state tax credits if a state establishes a policy or program that supports housing for a specified group. The only way to finance a development for both seniors and TAY using LIHTCs would be to build two separate buildings, which is physically and financially infeasible.

To clear the way for financing of affordable housing that would accommodate seniors as well as TAY and caregivers, and to explicitly enable intergenerational projects to qualify for federal and state LIHTCs, SB 591 provides that it creates a state policy supporting intergenerational housing for senior citizens, caregivers, and transition age youth, as described in the Internal Revenue Code, and, further, permits developers in receipt of local or state funds or tax credits designated for affordable rental housing to restrict occupancy to senior citizens, caregivers, and transition-age youth, including permitting developers in receipt of tax credits designated for affordable rental housing to retain the right to prioritize and restrict occupancy, so long as that housing does not violate any other applicable laws.

In additional to Emeryville, SB 591 is supported by, among others, AARP, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, the California Apartment Association, and the Cities of Berkeley, Half Moon Bay, and Oakland. There is no registered opposition. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee (11-0), the Senate Committee on Housing (9-0), and the full Senate (37-0). It is now in the Assembly.

Eric Gelber, now retired, is a 1980 graduate of UC Davis School of Law (King Hall). He has nearly four decades of experience monitoring, analyzing, and crafting legislation through positions as a disability rights attorney, Chief Consultant with the Assembly Human Services Committee, and Legislative Director of the California Department of Developmental Services.


Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link:

Share:

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for