Testimony: NYS Assembly Committee on Housing Hearing on Affordable Housing

New York State Assembly
Assembly Standing Committee on Housing
December 14, 2017
Oversight of the State Fiscal Year 2017-2018 State Budget for New York State Homes & Community Renewal

Thank you to Chairperson Assemblyman Cymbrowitz and to the Assembly Committee on Housing for the opportunity to testify today.

LiveOn NY would like to first and foremost thank Governor Cuomo and the entire legislature for the investment made last fiscal year of new affordable housing capital funding. More specifically, we thank the state for the creation of the first capital funding stream for affordable senior housing, allocating $125 million over the next 5 years.

This investment in new affordable senior housing is critical due to the dire need throughout the state. In 2016, LiveOn NY conducted a survey, entitled “Through the Roof” which found that an estimated 200,000 seniors are on wait lists for housing through the HUD202 program in New York City. The lack of affordable housing can have adverse effects on a senior’s health as it forces one to make the difficult choice between skipping meals, going without medications, or avoiding needed healthcare in order to afford rent.

LiveOn NY is hopeful that the critical investments made last fiscal year will help to combat the current housing crisis for seniors and New Yorkers of all ages. Beyond these capital investments, LiveOn NY urges investments to be made in the upcoming fiscal year to fully support seniors by providing service coordinators in both newly constructed and existing senior residences.

Service coordinators in senior housing residences are proven to reduce health care costs. In fact, LiveOn NY’s member Selfhelp Community Services just released a study of the residents in Selfhelp’s senior affordable housing program.  They study compared Medicaid data for residents in their housing in two zip codes and compared it to other seniors living in the same zip codes over two years.

The crucial research found that the seniors living in Selfhelp’s affordable housing had much more positive outcomes including:

68% lower odds of being hospitalized

$1,778 average Medicaid payment per person, per hospitalization for Selfhelp residents, versus $5,715 for the comparison group

53% lower odds of visiting an emergency room compared to a non-Selfhelp resident

In addition, a 2016 study of residents in affordable housing in Oregon showed that Medicaid costs declined by 16% just one year after seniors moved into affordable housing communities. Results also showed that primary care visits increased by 20%, while emergency room visits decreased by 18% and that properties with on-site health services produced the largest decrease in emergency room visits. A 2014 evaluation of the SASH program in Vermont revealed that growth in the annual total Medicare expenditures of program participants was lower by an estimated $1,756-$2,197 per person when compared to the growth of total Medicare expenditures in comparison groups.

In order to truly make New York the first Age Friendly state in the nation, investments in these proven cost-effective service coordinators must be made. LiveOn NY urges a new dedicated funding stream for services in existing and new affordable senior housing buildings. These services can help residents in remaining healthy and independent, supporting the overwhelming desire for seniors to age in place in their homes.  This new program would be a strong pillar of the Governor Cuomo’s Health Across All Policies Initiative. 

LiveOn NY thanks Assemblyman Cymbrowitz and the Standing Committee on Housing for holding today’s hearing and we look forward to working together in the upcoming fiscal year.

LiveOn NY’s members provide community-based services that allow older adults to thrive in their communities. With a base of more than 100 organizations serving at least 300,000 older New Yorkers annually, our members provide services ranging from senior centers, congregate and home‐delivered meals, affordable senior housing with services, elder abuse prevention services, caregiver supports, transportation, NORCs and NY Connects.  LiveOn NY members also develop, operate, and provide services for affordable senior housing building throughout New York City. LiveOn NY advocates for increased funding for these vital services to improve both the solvency of the system and the overall capacity of community-based service providers.

LiveOn NY also administers a citywide outreach program that targets seniors in communities where benefits are most underutilized.  This program helps to educate thousands of older adults, including those who are homebound, about food assistance options, as well as to screen and enroll those who are eligible for SNAP and SCRIE/DRIE.

LiveOn NY is also proud to administer the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program for the entire state. A grant project funded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL), this program is aimed at preventing Medicare fraud. SMP is modeled around recruiting and actively engaging senior volunteers to promote peer counseling, education, and assistance. This provides seniors opportunities to not only educate themselves on Medicare issues, but also to get involved and give back to their community. SMPs educate Medicare beneficiaries on how to protect, detect, and report Medicare fraud, through this, SMPs are able to empower beneficiaries to reduce healthcare costs caused by errors, abuse, and fraud.