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Fla. Lawmakers Urged To Help Get Congress To Restore Affordable Senior Housing Funds

Sascha Cordner

Advocates for senior citizens are joining with several state lawmakers in urging Congress to restore funding to an Affordable Housing program for the elderly. They say the lack of federal funds comes at a time when the senior population in Florida continues to grow and thousands of low-income seniors are still on waiting lists for low-cost housing.

“Every 8 seconds, we have someone turning 65. We have a crisis that is approaching us, like a train approaching a tunnel and you see a headlight. We need to wake up. We need to do something about it,” said Tony Fransetta.

Fransetta is the President of the Florida Alliance For Retired Americans, a group advocating that the full Florida Legislature passes a Memorial that urges Congress to restore funding to the Supportive Housing for the Elderly program.

It’s a program that helps low income-seniors with affordable housing, but over the last couple of years, federal funds have dwindled, and last year, there was no funding at all.

“Funding for low cost housing has drastically decreased from $650 million appropriated in 2005 to $78 million in 2011, and zero in 2012. That is unacceptable,” remarked Senator Joseph Abruzzo.

The Democrat from Wellington is the Senate sponsor of the Memorial, and he says without the necessary funds, construction of housing has been put on hold, which he says does nothing to meet the needs of Florida’s growing senior population.

“We have an increasingly growing senior population that without some funds that will go to ensure that our seniors can live a decent live in a normal dwelling, we are really putting Americans at a great disadvantage,” added Abruzzo.

It’s estimated that about a fourth of Florida’s population is made up of seniors over the age of 60, and the bill’s House Sponsor Mark Pafford says the lack of funding for seniors doesn’t make any sense.

“Aside from tourism and agriculture, there’s some that would argue that the retirement industry is actually the second largest economy in the state of Florida. And, so you have to wonder, why the state of Florida—through Senator Abruzzo’s bill and my bill—why we have to ask the federal government for assistance," asked Pafford.

And, Steve Protulis agrees. He’s the Executive Director of Elderly Housing and Development Operations. He says if the federal government addresses this now, it will be beneficial down the road. But, he says if Congress continues to wait, there will be an even bigger problem down the road. He says the senior population is growing and will continue to grow, and so will the need for affordable senior housing. He says by 2030, one out of five Americans will be a Senior Citizen, and the situation is currently dire.

“In every single building that we have, especially in Florida, we have over five years waiting list of someone waiting for somebody to die or move out of our units of our apartments so they can live there. So, the need for affordable housing under Section 202 of the Government is critical more than ever,” said Protulis.

Both the House and Senate Bills have been assigned to committees, but they have not yet been taken up.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.