“Nationwide, more than 1.6 million older adults live in low-income housing subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development – most in apartment buildings with shared common spaces, elevators, staircases, mailrooms, hallways and laundry rooms where the coronavirus might lurk. Most of these seniors have endured a life of disadvantage, have chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and lack financial reserves to draw upon. Yet in the midst of the pandemic, this population – the age group deemed most at risk of becoming critically ill and dying – has largely been overlooked [emphasis added].”
The preceding quote comes from a Kaiser Health News feature that recently ran on CNN’s website. The full article may be accessed here. A few members brought the article to PHADA’s attention, and we thought it was important to correct the record. In short, the summary quoted above simply is inaccurate.
There is no question that seniors and disabled persons living in multifamily housing – subsidized and unsubsidized – face many daunting challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. Many elderly residents live alone, are frail, immobile and may not have others they can count on to help them through the difficulties they are now enduring. Many housing authorities all over the country have therefore stepped-up efforts to help this vulnerable population, notwithstanding this flawed report.
The news article contradicts itself noting that the Chicago Housing Authority has made 3,000 calls daily to check in on older residents, requiring property managers to clean up and disinfect common areas three times a day while also distributing information about coronavirus testing that is available to the residents. In addition, the agency helped provide tens of thousands of household supplies and masks to residents, assisted with prescription drug renewals, and provided access to telehealth services for residents.
We could cite numerous other examples. The New York City HA headed by former PHADA President, Greg Russ, has partnered with many third parties including the celebrity JAY Z to provide resources to older residents so they can purchase food and supplies during the pandemic. In collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the New Brunswick Housing Authority, headed by another previous PHADA President, John Clarke, has delivered food and fruit boxes to hundreds of seniors and disabled persons over the last few months.
Staff from Reno Housing Authority delivering meals to its resident seniors.
Amy Jones, a PHADA Trustee from Reno, NV, provided another illustrative example. “My biggest fear when all of this started was that one of our seniors in our senior sites would get sick and it would spread. My staff went above and beyond to ensure our seniors stayed home and safe. We immediately started calling them daily to check on them,” said Jones. “We started collecting donations from staff and partnering agencies. Every couple of days the staff would fill up sport wagons with supplies and walk through the complexes making deliveries…. If we did not have what they needed, we would get it and deliver it. We partnered with volunteers to ensure the meals through the meal program were still delivered. It continued to grow, and we now have a weekly donation from a grocery store with fresh food,” she wrote to PHADA.
We heard from another PHADA Trustee, Anne Smith, who runs the Menard County agency in a more rural section of Illinois. “We will help with food or run errands to get items (personal needs or medicine),” Smith told PHADA. “I personally take food to those who request it. There has been money allocated to area agencies to help with rent, utilities, groceries, medicine for those who need it and we still have meals delivered to seniors throughout the community.”
I could cite many other examples from dedicated housing professionals all over the country. The point is housing authorities are not “overlooking” the needs of those we serve. In fact, we are doing our very best to serve those most in need during this very difficult period.
PHADA Legislative Forum Update
Due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Legislative Forum originally scheduled for mid-September in Washington, will now be held online as a fully virtually event. The Legislative “E-Forum” will occur Sept. 14–15 and is FREE for PHADA members.
Our September meeting is always timely and provides us with a great opportunity to interact with Congress, HUD, and others when they are nearing completion of the latest budget right before the fall election season. Some of the content for this meeting will include sessions on timely topics including the latest on CARES Act funding and reporting requirements, FY 21 HUD appropriations, HUD’s NSPIRE program for physical inspections, and other real-time updates from HUD officials, Capitol Hill staff and members of Congress.
You can see a schedule outline here. We will also conduct PHADA’s organizational committees meeting the preceding week. I would remind you that those working sessions, which will cover all of the current events in Washington, are open to all members.
Important News on Accreditation
I have previously reported on the industry’s joint efforts regarding the establishment of a voluntary accreditation system for housing authorities. There are several benefits associated with such a system, including the fact that housing organizations are now evaluated on their ability to meet national standards developed by their professional peers. Another benefit is that participation establishes confidence with potential funders and regulators for future capital investment. PHADA and others believe the system has the potential to increase the visibility and public awareness of affordable housing, leading to greater public trust and increased affordable housing credibility. This can ultimately create a stronger constituency for affordable housing funding and infrastructure.
Some of our members, including Vice President for Housing Josh Meehan (Keene, NH), have met with HUD and Congress about formally establishing a system, which would be voluntary for HAs. I am delighted to note the House Committee on Appropriations indicated its strong support for the concept in its bill report language included below, which PHADA fully supports. We will ask the Senate to include a similar directive to HUD in its committee report.
If you would like more information about accreditation, I encourage you to review the details on their website at: https://housingaccreditation.org, or contact the Board’s CEO, Diana McWilliams at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the FY 21 House Appropriations Committee Report
Affordable housing organization accreditation – The Committee directs the Department to consider a cooperative agreement with a highly qualified nonprofit entity that has developed affordable housing standards and is experienced with affordable housing organizations, including public housing agencies, to develop standards and protocols for implementing a national accreditation process for affordable housing organizations. Such entity shall offer voluntary, fee-based accreditation to affordable housing organizations. Those accreditation standards should include assessing the organization’s operations, policies, procedures, practices, communications, and relationships with residents and stakeholders. The Committee directs the Department to report back to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act on the feasibility of such an agreement.