Pol pushes for more funds for Queens senior housing

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U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) is calling on his congressional colleagues to strengthen a federal program that funds construction of affordable housing for seniors, saying many of the borough’s elderly are forced to wait up to 10 years to find a place to live.

Weiner said he will introduce legislation to double funding for the Housing and Urban Development project, Section 202, which provides local non-profit organizations with federal dollars to build housing for low-income seniors. Under the program, New York City would get around $100 million for senior housing.

“In New York City if you are a senior you can grow old and gray waiting for an opportunity to move into an apartment,” Weiner said last Thursday at a news conference. “From the Battery to the Bronx to Queens and Brooklyn there are thousands and thousands of names for very few units of housing.”

Weiner’s proposed Senior Housing Investment Act also would increase funding to modernize existing Section 202 facilities and relax regulations that slow the construction of new housing. The bill also would boost money allocated to assisted living facilities.

A study conducted by Weiner’s office concluded that more than 200,000 seniors are on the waiting lists for the city’s 183 facilities for low-income seniors, including 28,000 seniors in Queens.

Since 1995, Section 202 has been slashed more than 33 percent nationwide, with a drop of about $12 million in funds allocated for senior housing in New York, Weiner said, blaming Republican control of Congress for the decline.

There were 743 units constructed in New York under the program in 1995 while only 409 were built last year, Weiner said.

In Queens, seniors hoping to find housing under the program must wait an average of almost six years to enter one of the 18 facilities in the borough, Weiner said. In the meantime, they spend most of their income on steep city rents, he added.

Jack Lubow, who has been on the waiting list for a Brooklyn senior home for eight years, said he pays $525 a month for rent and receives $528 from Social Security. “It’s impossible to live this way,” he said.

Weiner worried that when more people from the baby-boomer generation hit retirement and old age, many will end up in Lubow’s shoes as housing for seniors gets even tighter.

According to Bobbie Sackman, the director of public policy for Council Senior Centers and Services, “New York is on the verge of a housing crisis because a large population is aging with no plans on how we’re going to house them.”

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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