The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it will add new funding to programs designed to facilitate aging-in-place goals specifically for American seniors in order to address ongoing senior livability issues and to allow more seniors to remain where they are.
This presents an alternative to moving into an assisted living or nursing facility in later life. This is according to an official announcement from HUD, and from HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge during an event in Minneapolis on Monday morning.
The additional funding, $15 million, will be deployed nationally. In order to qualify, a beneficiary must be at least 62 years of age and have 80% or less of their locality’s area median income. On-site in Minneapolis, federal officials estimated that figure would be approximately $85,000 for a family of four.
The need for American seniors to age in place
The event in Minneapolis was attended by Secretary Fudge as well as U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D), Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity President and CEO Chris Coleman at the home of Betty and John Smith, a couple who benefitted from a federal program that allowed their home to be renovated with aging in place improvements.
Before her remarks, the Secretary remarked on the quality of the Smiths home and indicated that the renovations will allow them to remain there for years to come, a goal out of reach for many American seniors at present.
“We are in a nation now where most seniors can’t live like they do,” Fudge said referring to the Smiths. “To live in their homes with dignity and the support that they need. We have not done a good job at taking care of our seniors.”
Fudge then recalled a 1977 phrase from former U.S. Vice President and Senator Hubert Humphrey in which he said, “[…]The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
In a statement later released by HUD, Secretary Fudge also mentioned the growing necessity to facilitate aging-in-place programs throughout the country, tying the goal to the administration’s housing supply objectives.
“By 2040, it is estimated that 20 percent of the population will be over 65 years old,” said Secretary Fudge. “We must allow our nation’s seniors to age-in-place with dignity. This funding will give seniors the flexibility to make changes to their existing homes -changes that will keep them safe and allow them to gracefully adjust to their changing lifestyle. This program is crucial to our work to increase and maintain our nation’s housing supply, and it aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to treat every person in this country with dignity and respect.”
HUD Secretary: aging in place ‘can be done’
Fudge expressed her belief that this has not been adequately accomplished particularly for seniors before announcing the new funding for aging-in-place programs.
“I am happy to be here because we can show people it can work, it can be done,” she said referring to aging-in-place renovations. “This work was done with a $30 million expenditure from HUD. I’m here today to announce another $15 million, which we believe will allow another 5000-plus seniors to stay in their homes.”
One of the subject matter experts on-site at the event was asked by the attending media what the cost would be on a per-home basis for home modifications designed to facilitate aging in place, estimating that the cost would likely be around $2,500 per home.
In a press release later on Monday, HUD outlined some of the broader criteria for its aging-in-place notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) announced that morning.
“The funding opportunity establishes a program model that incorporates two core concepts: first, as people age, their needs change, and they may need adaptations to their physical environment to live safely at home; second, for any intervention to have the highest impact, the individual’s personal goals and needs must be a driver in determining the actual intervention,” the HUD statement said.
The prior $30 million program Fudge alluded to was announced in August 2021, and was distributed to 32 separate nonprofit organizations as well as state and local governments and public housing authorities for the specific purpose of renovating more homes for aging in place. The Smiths who hosted Monday’s event were beneficiaries under this plan.
Cited examples of such modifications detailed under the previous program include the installation of grab bars in bathrooms or bedrooms, the addition of railings near stairwells, as well as lever-handled doorknobs and faucets. The modifications can also include the installation of adaptive equipment, such as non-slip strips for a bathtub/shower or stairs.
HUD also highlighted these efforts again earlier this year in a bulletin from its Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH).
Aging in place as a global issue
In her remarks, Secretary Fudge discussed the specific issues regarding housing seniors in America, but also mentioned that she has already had conversations with foreign dignitaries — and plans to have more — since several other nations are finding difficulties when it comes to aging populations. Aging in place is a potential solution that other nations have expressed interest in, the secretary said.
“Aging in place is a problem across the world, not just here,” Fudge said. “I’m heading to Germany in a week or so to talk about this same issue. I’ve met with the ambassador from Japan here to talk about the same issue. We have neglected to build enough senior housing in this country, or allowed people to stay in their homes. So I’m excited to be here to try to address some of the issues that we know are a problem.”
Aging in place has been emerging as a dominant preference among global seniors for some time. In 2021, data from New Zealand-based Heartland Group indicated that 89.9% of surveyed older adults wish to remain in their homes as long as possible.
The trajectory of uptake for equity release products in the U.K. – sometimes referred to as “lifetime mortgages” or “retirement mortgages” in Europe – is visibly on an upswing, and it’s the hope of the industry in the U.K. and for members of the European Pensions and Property Asset Release Group (EPPARG) to expand what has been seen to more of the territory according to professionals who spoke at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Virtual Annual Meeting in November, 2021.
Reverse mortgage investments in home renovations
Reverse mortgage companies have also been investing in home modification efforts for potential synergies with the needs of American seniors. In 2021, Finance of America Companies announced the acquisition of home improvement financing option “Benji,”which morphed into a new FoA vertical called Finance of America Home Improvement (FOAHI), which company leadership at the time said had major potential to interact with other verticals like including Finance of America Reverse (FAR).
American Advisors Group (AAG) also announced in 2021 that it had engaged into a partnership with VGM Live at Home as its official home equity solutions provider, potentially providing an option for members of the membership community to finance home modification efforts through AAG’s suite of government-sponsored and correspondent proprietary reverse mortgage products.
Watch the HUD event in Minneapolis on the YouTube channel BlackPressUSA TV.