Testimony of Raymond J. Czachowski
NDC Real Estate Management
My name is Ray Czachowski, I'm Executive Vice President of NDC Real Estate Management which is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My firm manages 7800 apartments units in nine east coast states, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Florida of which approximately 2000 are elderly apartments. These 2000 units are subsidized under various government assistance programs. The assisted housing programs I have experience with are Section 8, 236, 202, Mod Rehab, HODAG, Home, Tax Credits and Rural Housing Development. I have over 25 years of experience in elderly housing.
I am a Board member of the National Leased Housing Association, a Board Member of St. Mary Mercy Manor (a 36 unit extended attention elderly housing facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and Chairman of the Estelle S. Campbell Boys & Girls Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I mention the Estelle S. Campbell Boys and Girls Club, located in the Lawrenceville Community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, because we recently built this new 26,000 sq. ft. club on land leased from the City, in a public park and part of the facility includes a Senior Center and the Club's gyms and other facilities are used by the Seniors at times when the youth are not in the Club.
The buildings that my firm manages are owned by non-profits and for profit entities. These buildings provide many types of services to our elderly residents. These include, meal programs, housekeeping assistance, social activities, exercise classes, computer classes, medical screenings, counseling, transportation and other social services.
While the main purpose of my firm is to provide safe and decent housing, we realize that additional services enable our elderly residents to function independently for longer periods of time. These activities and services help to provide a greater quality of life for our residents.
In looking at ways how the government can partner with the private housing sector to enhance these services, I feel this has to be looked at from the following: 1) Services needed 2) Eligibility thresholds 3) Economics and 4) Coordination of available services.
Our experience in our buildings has shown that services and activities contribute to a longer, happier, healthier and a higher quality of life. If we only provide housing, than we are nothing more than a warehouse operation. As our elderly residents age in place, they need more services and social interaction to keep them active and stimulated. In the past their families and relatives helped to provide this social interaction and services. As many of us are aware, the demands of modern life do not always provide the children time to take care of mom, dad, grandparents and other relatives.
The elderly are seeking ongoing services and stimulation in their daily lives. We need to insure that a full range of services are available. It is not enough to provide a meal than have that resident retreat to their room until the next feeding. Services need to be offered that make the resident want to interact with others. Programs such as computer classes or rooms with the ability to access the internet, speakers on appealing topics, cards, bingo, music programs, movies, trips to museums, theaters, etc. help to stimulate the mind and keep us younger longer. Exercise and wellness activities help to stimulate the body.
Our residents also need help with some daily activities. While still independent they may need help with cleaning their apartments, assistance with shopping or with their daily activities. While no one wants to admit they are aging and unable to handle their daily activities, if we can offer services, stimulation of mind and body then our elderly residents can age in place for a longer period of time.
Many outside third party providers of services can bring in or provide services to residents of our buildings. We see residents getting assistance in paying for meals, or other services based on their incomes. We see Aging Agencies that provide walkers, special shoes or other medical items or equipment that insurance or medicare does not provide. We see transportation authorities providing rides on an as needed basis at a reduced costs.
One of the biggest problems I see are the eligibility thresholds. As many of you are aware, these programs were set up and are in place to help those on the lower end of the economic strata. I've seen eligibility guidelines that state your total assets must be down to $2,000 before you are qualified for any assistance. I've seen requirements that people have to be one step below physical eligibility for a nursing home to qualify for assistance with daily living activities.
In many instances having eligibility requirements (physical and economic) with such low thresholds, we are missing the opportunity to provide preventative services at a much earlier time. The elderly could use these services to stay healthier, and independent for a longer period of time. I would equate this to a car that starts to burn oil and sputter. It's usually cheaper to fix the problem when it occurs rather than taking care of it when the car is barely running.
To prevent abuses and insure that those in need get the greatest benefit, a sliding scale should be looked at to determine eligibility for these needed services. This would insure that middle America (in many instances not eligible for these benefits) would also be able to use these services at a reasonable cost, if the need would ever arise.
Private and non-profit owners are having difficult time maintaining and increasing the level of services. The economics of owning and managing government assisted properties are changing. Some properties are in the mark-to-market program, they have faced a dramatic increase in utility costs, real estate taxes and insurance costs, and we have had some properties in Pennsylvania that have not had a rent increase in five years. Owners are reluctant to take on programs that provide additional services if a long term funding stream is not available.
The government agencies involved (HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services) should work together to help owners access available funding sources which could provide a long term source of funds to pay for these services.
In the long term it would be to the benefit of HUD and Health and Human Services and other governmental agencies to channel funds to the properties for these services. Residents would stay and age in place longer, and have a dignified quality of life. The earlier we can provide these supplemental services in the aging process, the better it will be for the recipients.
These are available services out there at this time. However, many seniors and the owners and managers of building are not aware of how to gain access. At times this is a hit and miss process.
A suggestion would be for some sort of program (from the government agencies, such as HUD, Health and Human Services and local agencies on Aging, etc…) that would provide a coordinator who could make the residents and owners of assisted housing aware of what existing programs were available.
The government agencies could share the cost of this coordinator with operators of assisted housing in an area. For example, groups of 10 buildings in a locality could hire a coordinator to make them aware of existing programs, services and the requirements for participation. The government could pay for ½ the cost of these coordinators. This would create a true public-private partnership that would create awareness and better utilization of existing services. This could enhance the living environment of seniors in existing assisted housing.
Enhanced services to seniors in assisted or private housing can provide for ageing in place and a better quality of life. There is a need to examine and modify existing eligibility thresholds. The Government Agencies (HUD and Health & Human Services) need to recognize a need for long term funding sources for these enhanced services. A potential public/private partnership could be developed to assist residents and owners of housing in locating and accessing the services currently available.
Thank you for this opportunity to present this testimony before this commission.
|The page was last modified on August 14, 2001|