In September, Niles Godes became the first senior vice president of housing and capital for LeadingAge. Long-Term Living recently spoke with him about his role and why this work is especially important to senior housing and service providers now.
You’re the first person to hold this position at LeadingAge. Why is now an important time for the organization to be focusing on housing and capital?
There’s a profound need in the area of affordable housing for low-income seniors. The population of people age 65 and older will double by 2030, and the number of homeless elderly is expected to increase by one-third between 2010 and 2020. It’s a crucial time for us to be involved.
The first thing we need to do is preserve every unit of low-income senior housing we currently have. Every unit we lose is one more unit we have to make up somewhere else, and that’s not easy to do. And in many cases, preserving affordable seniors housing means rehabilitating Section 202 properties. But here’s the challenge: Many 202 PRAC [Project Rental Assistance Contract] properties need to be rehabilitated, but under current federal law, owners of 202 PRACs may not borrow against those properties to fund rehabilitation. We are working on writing legislation that would enable these property owners to take on debt for rehabilitation, and we are hoping Congress will address the issue. We will be working to educate members of Congress.
Are you working across that whole spectrum of senior housing or mainly focusing on one type?
We’re working in a number of areas. For example, in addition to the Section 202 properties that I mentioned, we’re also working on project-based Section 8 properties. The Department of Urban Development and Congress are proposing insufficient funding for full, 12-month Section 8 properties. Providing partial year funding...is just kicking the can down the road, because it means those contracts would need even more funding in fiscal year 2016, when we may see another round of big sequestration budget cuts, and that’s just short-sighted policy.
Are you advocating for new ways to support some of these models financially, in addition to the ways that they’re currently funded?
One of the biggest problems, in addition to keeping everything we have, is expanding the nation’s stock of affordable senior housing. For about 20 years, there was a program called the Section 202 Capital Advance Grant Program, and that was the primary way the federal government helped provide capital to fund this kind of housing. But Congress stopped funding that program in fiscal year 2011, so Congress needs to either start funding the 202 Capital Advance Grant program again or create another vehicle to provide capital for building affordable senior housing.
Because that program is no longer being funded, the only remaining federal program for funding development of new affordable housing is something called the low-income housing tax credit. That program, which has been around since, I believe, 1986, has produced an average of 30,000 units per year for moderate and low-income seniors. The program isn’t perfect. It does not serve the very low or extremely low income elderly population, but it is the only federal program that exists right now to expand affordable senior housing, so we need to protect it during tax reform debate that could come [in 2015] or in the coming years.