Vulnerable Groups Linked by Need for Affordable Housing
The NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) recognizes that aging friendly and age sensitive issues are in reality ageless. In this spirit NJFA works with many partners including the Anti Poverty Network (APN).¬† This organization represents a wide array of groups and concerns. The intersection or cross tracking of concerns creates a dynamic profile impacting people of all ages. Across the board access to nutrition & health services, employment and affordable housing are essential quality of life ingredients.
Among the vulnerable populations whose lives are deeply impacted by these intersecting concerns are our state‚Äôs elders. A simple examination of income data makes this reality painfully clear. The NJ Foundation for Aging‚Äôs NJ Elder Index and Data Report indicates that 25 % of all seniors living in NJ rely on their Social Security benefit as their sole source of their annual income. The average annual cost of living for a single elder renting a one bedroom apartment reported in the index is slightly below $28,000 and the cost of living is even higher in Bergen and Passaic counties. This level is a significant challenge when we know the average Social Security for a woman in NJ is $14,848 (and this is the average meaning many women receive significantly less). More than 252,000 single elders and elder couples face the daily crisis of covering their basic expenses with inadequate income.
Public benefits can improve the quality of life for the elder receiving the average SS benefit of $14,848 (as their sole source of income) as well as those with even lower incomes. This elder would be eligible for SNAP, for congregate meal programs, for Farmers market coupons, for energy and utility assistance, for PAAD, and a low income subsidy for their Medicare premium. Even with all of these existing programs, however, they would still fall short in the ability to cover their basic costs.
Here is where the needs and the solutions collide. Affordable housing is the only benefit that helps this elder really narrow the gap between their costs and their income. As declared by the headline for a recent NJ Spotlight article, ‚ÄúAffordable housing remains out of reach for a majority of NJ Renters‚Äù. This is not new news, but the article cites data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition‚Äôs annual ‚ÄúOut of Reach‚Äù report. The NJ Foundation for Aging recognizes that affordable housing is needed for people of all ages so people do not age into poverty. Housing policy across NJ is sorely lacking and we need to offer a full portrait of those who would benefit from this important resource: children, low income families, adults, health care workers, seniors, and residents with special needs. Let‚Äôs make housing for all a priority.