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What is Section 202 Housing for the Elderly?

by Mexico Expat
section 202 supportive housing

Finding the right balance between assistance and independence is an intricate dance for the elderly. Section 202 Supportive Housing might be an option.

Seniors may not be best served in nursing homes but still be unable to manage entirely on their own. Assisted living residences can come with a hefty price tag, making them out of reach for many. For some people with advancing dementia, a move to assisted living may be necessary. For others, Section 202 Supportive Housing may be the answer.

HUD (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development) has a program that makes an effort to help seniors as they age. If your income means you or a loved one is struggling to keep a roof over your heads, then Section 202 Supportive Housing could be the solution you’ve been looking for. 

What is Section 202 Supportive Housing Program?

The Section 202 Supportive Housing Program was set up in 1959. More than 400,000 households have used it since its initiation. The primary beneficiaries are older than 62 and earn below 50% of the median income for their area. 

Seniors with low income often pay more than they can afford for housing. In 2011, HUD conducted a study and found that 1.47 million senior renters have extreme housing needs. Therefore, the Section 202 program is a way that there are more affordable housing options available for seniors. In some ways, it is similar to the Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811) program.

Although the minimum age is 62, the average age for those who benefit from Section 202 is 70. Approximately 40% are over the age of 80. About 90% are single women. The average income of these individuals is about $10,000 per year. 

How Do You Apply for HUD 202?

First, check your area’s income limits. HUD provides the parameters at its Income Limits Documentation System which can be found here.

The next step is to contact the Public Housing Agency (PHA) in your area. You can find those listed by state here. From there, HUD representatives will help you apply and find appropriate housing. You can also search HUD’s apartment locator found here.

Know that government housing assistance programs can have very long waitlists!

Section 202 Residence Accommodations

Section 202 residences are usually one-bedroom apartments that include a kitchen and bathroom. They are adapted to help seniors maintain their independence as long as possible. These adaptations could include nonskid floors, ramps, and grab bars.

Many apartments have a network of support services such as housekeeping, transportation, and meal delivery. Some offer personal care services similar to assisted living facilities, which may include help bathing and dressing. Although not covered by HUD, most of these support services are covered by Medicaid. 

Approximately 90% of Section 202 residences have an area for social and recreational activities. About 50% of the facilities have the option of communal dining.

How Does Section 202 Work?

HUD gives interest-free capital advances to private nonprofit contractors and consumer cooperatives to build or refurbish supportive housing for the elderly. These grants need not be repaid as long as the project results in housing for low-income elderly persons for 40 years. 

Additionally, assistance funds make up the difference between what the tenants pay for rent and the amount approved by HUD to charge for the facilities. These Project Rental Assistance Contracts (PRACs) are in effect the first three years and then renewable after that. The resident portion of the rent amounts to 30% of their adjusted income. 

What are Some of the Problems with the Program?

Unfortunately, inadequate funding has created a housing shortage. Although 10,000 new Section 202 units are needed per year to meet the increasingly aging population, fewer than 4,000 are actually refurbished or constructed in a given year. 

In 2006, AARP conducted a study that revealed that the wait-time for a residence was more than 13 months. The same study found that there are ten residents on the list for every unit that becomes available. Preference is given to the elderly who have been paying 50% or more of their income on rent, displaced seniors, and those that are living in substandard housing. 

Low funding also means that residences that have already been approved as Section 202 may not be receiving regular upkeep and modernization. So decent, supportive housing is becoming debilitated and unsafe as the years pass.  

What to Look for in a Section 202 Residence

Determining if a Section 202 residence will work for you requires an inspection of the property before agreeing to the accommodation. Be sure to ask questions and understand what services are included with the apartment before accepting a lease. Read the contract thoroughly, and make sure to keep a copy. 

Other things you should check include:

  • Is the bathroom able to accommodate a wheelchair or walker?
  • Is there an emergency response system installed?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • If housekeeping is available, is there an additional fee?
  • If transportation is available, is there an additional fee?
  • Is renter’s insurance required?
  • What is the evacuation route in case of an emergency?
  • Is a deposit required? How much is it?

While HUD requires regular inspections of Section 202 residences, if you see something during your review that seems in need of repair (such as electricity or heating issues), report it to the Public Housing Agency (PHA). 

HUD inspections check the viability of many aspects including:

  • Heating and cooling
  • Lighting and electricity
  • Safety and security
  • Water and air quality
  • Neighborhood
  • Structure and materials used (including the presence of lead-based paint)
  • Handicap access
  • Smoke detectors

Section 202 Summary

Section 202 Supportive Housing is an attractive alternative to assisted living for many. The average tenure for seniors living in a Section 202 residence is four years. However, more than 18% of all residents have lived in their HUD-approved apartment for more than ten years. With the appropriate financial and personal support supplied by this program, the elderly can live independently much longer. 

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