Senior housing needs studied
U.S. commission hears Dade elders
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2002 by the Miami Herald
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
As social services director for Little Havana Activities and
Nutrition Centers of Dade County, Ariela Rodriguez knows
first-hand the challenges seniors face in finding affordable
housing and healthcare.
That's why Rodriguez, 62, who has three years to go before
retirement, decided to call the Archdiocese of Miami now to
inquire about moving into one of its affordable housing units
for seniors in 2005.
``They told me I would have a seven-year wait,'' Rodriguez
said, recounting the conversation Monday for a
congressional panel charged with examining senior housing
and healthcare needs around the country.
With no pension, and just enough savings to get her through
two years after retirement, Rodriguez is no different from
hundreds of thousands of aging South Floridians -- and
Americans -- struggling to stretch their incomes and life
savings far enough to meet rising housing and medical
Those struggles, and the challenges of providing for this
population, were highlighted Monday for the U.S.
Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility
Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century.
The only meeting to take place in Florida and the Southeast
United States, Monday's daylong session at Robert Sharp
Towers I, 103 NW 202nd Ter., was part of a national
dialogue on how to improve housing and healthcare needs
not just for today's seniors -- but the 80 million baby
boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, who are nearing
``In America today, there is a deficit of affordable and
appropriate housing for growing numbers of our older
citizens,'' said Keith Campbell, board chairman for the
American Association of Retired Persons.
``The housing and healthcare services shortfall of today will
turn into the housing and healthcare services crisis of
tomorrow if our policymakers fail to anticipate and act on the
arrival of baby boomers who are of modest means.''
In addition to hearing from Campbell, the 11 panelists, who
traveled from all over the country, also heard from seniors
waiting to get into housing units and those living in them, as
well as providers and advocates.
The recommendations ranged from improving the Medicare
waiver system to allow more seniors to remain in their
homes and improving transportation and social services to
better coordination between the departments of Housing and
Urban Development and Health and Human Services, which
operates the Medicare program.
``Investment in a HUD housing unit is a tremendous savings
to Medicare,'' said Jane Johnson of the Florida Association
of Homes for the Aging.
``It costs $40,000 to put someone in a nursing home for a
year. You could put that money into a HUD unit that will last
40 to 50 years.''
Jose Fábregas, executive director of CODEC, a nonprofit
community development corporation, said his Miami-Dade
agency can't get new low-income housing units for seniors
up fast enough.
Next month, 100 seniors will move into CODEC's newest
complex on Southwest Eighth Street and 22nd Avenue.
However, the new tenants won their slots through a lottery.
Another 6,800 seniors in the lottery weren't so lucky.
``They ask, `How come we don't build any more buildings
like this?' '' Fábregas said.
The waiting list is about five years.
``When the waiting list doesn't move, they lose faith,'' he
Monday's hearing was the fourth since July.
The panel's recommendations are due to Congress in June.
Before the meeting, members toured Robert Sharp Towers,
a complex with 109 subsidized rental units.
As they visited a fourth-floor apartment overlooking a lake
and parking lot, commission members listened as Terri
Brodes, 73, explained how much she enjoys living in her
900-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.
HAPPY SHE MOVED
She doesn't miss her $550-a-month North Miami Beach
apartment, she said.
``The rent went up, up and up. There was no living,'' said
Brodes, who has lived in Robert Sharp for four years and
pays $198 a month.
"I can go to a restaurant and buy more clothes."