Former HUD Secretary Cisneros: Housing policy needs health-care component

Aging Boomer population creates new program demands

The shifting demographic realities of an aging America will put a unique strain on housing and health care, and housing policy must marry the two if the country is to meet the challenge, says former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.

Cisneros is one of the many housing policy experts and political minds gathered today in New Hampshire for the housing summit sponsored by the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families and the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“Responding to the needs of an aging population will be one of the most complex public-policy challenges facing our nation in the 21st century,” said Henry Cisneros, former HUD Secretary and co-chair of BPC’s Health and Housing Task Force. “The U.S. needs a more strategic approach for linking health care and housing policies and programs.

By 2030, some 73 million people aged 65 and older and nearly 9 million aged 85 and older will be living in the United States. And 70% of those who reach 65 will eventually require some form of long-term support and services — that is, help with tasks like bathing, cooking, and medication management.

Surveys show that most of these seniors will seek to age-in-place — in their existing homes. Yet many of their homes and communities are not suited for independent living; and the ability to age-in-place will greatly depend upon access to affordable home care.

“Access to affordable, stable housing is critical to good health and has the potential to produce savings for our nation’s health care system overall. Collaboration between these fields is critical. Over the next 25 years, federal government spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs is projected to grow much faster than the overall economy,” Cisneros said.

Earlier Friday, presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told attendees that the United States is in perilous waters when it comes to housing the nation’s elderly and that the next president needs to address the issue head-on, or face “millions” of senior citizens becoming homeless.

There’s simply not enough rental stock and not enough affordable housing, or available funding for either, he told Alex Skatell, founder of news site Independent Journal Review.

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