The Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility
Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century
November 7, 2001
My name is Lawrence Weinstein, and I'm the director of Shared Solutions America. We're a nonprofit organization.
I'm a retired architect and builder of 40 years, and I spent the last two years studying extensively throughout our nation the need for home modification and universal design relative to the seniors population.
Our purpose is to promote public and professional awareness on how to make the right home modifications through workshops and seminars.
It's real easy to say, "Let's build it right the first time," which I agree -- I concur with completely, but unfortunately the very sizable amount of our population reside in existing homes and apartments, and I therefore feel that that is a major concern, more so than the ideal setting of "Let's do it new."
We're in the process of developing a very practical, simple, easy-to-use home modifications assessment program which will include education of the public, education of architects, education of contractors.
In the two-year study I've done, I've found throughout our nation there are a number of existing home modification assessment programs, one in Chicago. However, the assessment part of it is so complex it can't be filled out, and the implementation part of it is nonexistent because most people, as it's been brought out earlier, have no money -- little or no money, so it just falls short.
And this has been a deep concern of myself and my organization.
We're developing an educational training program for architects and contractors which will ultimately lead to a certification. I've been in touch with and working with the State of California Architects Office who are endorsing this all the way, who are going to be collaborating on it.
In implementation, we're also going to be putting together a resources compendium to afford counseling to seniors and people who help seniors as to what kind of funding is available to them, to get to that implementation part, to get into the part of whether they should go for reverse mortgage, second mortgage or what kind of grants and funding are available both from a federal, a state and city levels as well as from organizations.
I have a number of requests in relation to this.
Diane, you said something that's very important that has to do with the incentive program. In California, we recently had this energy crisis, and in response to that, the California Energy Commission, the CEC, developed a program of rebates. If you went and, for example, got an energy-efficient refrigerator, they would pay part of it. If you change your air conditioning, they would pay part of it. And it was very -- it was and is very successful. Very successful. And they were even shocked at the amount of applicants that have put forth -- because of the incentive nature to it.
And I propose in that vein the things that I'm going to say -- number one, I request that the federal government form a national universal design home modifications board so that across the country there's a set of standards that are established.
I further request that the federal government provide the funds necessary to develop a universal design home modifications assessment and implementation program that can be used throughout the country.
I request that the implementation of a home mods program in major cities throughout the country be overseen and enforced -- the quality enforced by the federal agency or the federal group so that those standards are not only set but they're adhered to.
We have a major problem, as you know, with what we call senior scams.
In the years I've been in business and especially these last two years, I have found very few architects and very few contractors that have any understanding of senior needs -- of the aging process of disabilities, and therefore, when the need comes up, the answers are not being met -- they're just not.
We want to create an educational program, and the reason why I'm saying this is this is San Diego, but this is something I envision throughout country; it's something that we need everywhere; it's not just here in San Diego.
But in talking with these other groups, these other leaders in other parts of the country that are researching this, they are willing to and wanting to collaborate on a national basis to develop this program.
The very last thing I want to say is that I request that Washington consider providing new programs of incentive funding to help low-income seniors make necessary home modifications such as grab bars, levered door knobs, better lighting and necessary basic repairs, and I thank you very much.