Testimony by DignityMA members
Listen to Brianna Zimmerman (STAVROS) at approximately 7 hours 15 minutes, and Sandy Novak at 9 hours and 39 minutes.
DignityMA written TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF H. 4138
Dignity Alliance Massachusetts applauds the Healey-Driscoll Administration for their leadership in addressing the issue of housing as proposed in House Bill No. H.4138 – the Affordable Homes Act. The legislation offers an important opportunity to address the housing needs of older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers in the Commonwealth.
We take this opportunity to focus on several important aspects of this legislation, and urge the Joint Committee on Housing, and the Healey-Driscoll Administration to prioritize the allocation of the bond funding authorized in H.4138 to recognize several important needs.
H. 4138 thoughtfully includes direction to the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to prepare a statewide housing plan every five years, and that plan must address the growing population of older adults and people with disabilities. The aging population in Massachusetts is growing rapidly. According to the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report, there are about one million people over the age of 65, which represents about 15% of the population. That 15% is expected to increase in only a few years, to 21% by 2030. The number of people aged 65 and over in Massachusetts is projected to rise to 43% over the next 15 years. Any statewide housing plan, if it is to be relevant to the needs of this fast-growing population of older adults must take this into consideration through the provision of more accessible, as well as affordable, housing especially with easy access of public transportation.
The call in H.4138 for investment in public housing recognizes the importance of public housing for older adults and people with disabilities whose income is often too low to maintain private market-rate homes or apartments. Several aspects of this legislation provide the opportunity to develop what is called “small house homes,” modelled on the concept developed by the US Veterans’ Administration and the Green House Project. These small house homes could be built on excess state lands especially those sites that are near utilities and public transportation or on municipal land donated by communities seeking to support their aging residents as was the case fifty years ago with the construction of state-aided housing for the elderly./
The bill further advances this concept through its provisions for supportive services for older adults and people with disabilities. Supportive housing services are far more preferable than institutional settings such as nursing homes and can result in a savings to the Commonwealth by helping people stay in the community. Dignity Alliance strongly recommends that a certain portion of these funds be carved out for this purpose.
Other important provisions of H.4138 authorize $60 million for the Home Modification Program and for new “community-based” housing for people with disabilities. Dignity Alliance respectfully urges that both of these programs warrant an increased amount of support and, if not included in the proposed bond, should be flagged for periodic review as part of the proposed statewide housing plan./ S.1629 currently in Senate Ways and Means and H.2874 in the Committee on Revenue might also be worth review for possible inclusion in the Affordable Homes Act.
The provisions of the bill providing for increased investment in public housing should also focus on the inventory of units of local housing for elder projects, many of which we constructed in the 1960’s. This type of housing would benefit from more units designed for people with disabilities with or without supportive services. Given global warming, the units should also be equipped to address extreme heat issues as well.
Dignity Alliance applauds provisions for authorizing accessory dwelling units without the need for zoning review. S904/H1296 currently under review by the Joint Committee on Housing would also achieve this goal./
Although the need for public housing anti-bullying provisions may be beyond the scope of the bond bill, Dignity Alliance recommends strongly that the Legislature and Executive Branch consider House 1329, An Act to prevent and respond to bullying of older adults and people with disabilities in public housing, which is under consideration by the Joint Committee on Housing. As a report released by the National Affordable Housing Professionals indicates, older adults are just as likely to be bullied as younger families. The report states, “bullying knows no age limit and in fact, an estimated 10%-20% of older adults experience some sort bullying—the exact figures are hard to come by because incidents often go unreported.” Furthermore, the National Center for Housing Management has documented this serious issue in older adult housing over the past decade.
Finally, Dignity Alliance strongly supports the provision in Section 103 in the Bond Bill establishing a Senior Housing & Age-Friendly Communities Commission to recommend policy, programs, and investments to expand the supply of sustainable, broadly affordable supportive senior housing and appropriate community supports. Dignity Alliance is willing to designate a member to serve on said commission and also to work with the commission as it develops its report.
If the committee has any questions regarding our testimony, please feel free to contact former Senator Richard T. Moore (617) 413-7734 who serves as chair of our Legislative Work Group. Email: email@example.com.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on this important legislation.
This testimony has been endorsed by 16 organizational or individual Dignity Alliance Massachusetts participants including the following:
Kathryn Burns, Greater Lynn Senior Services
Lynn Meg Coffin, CEO, Center for Living & Working, Inc., Worcester
Judi Fonsh, MSW, Leverett
Lachlan Forrow, MD, Newton
Wynn Gerhard, Plymouth
Arlene Germain, co-founder Dignity Alliance Massachusetts and MA Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Medford
Margaret M. Gullette, Newton
Jerry Halberstadt, Peabody
Robert L Holloway Jr., Topsfield
Paul J. Lanzikos, Beverly
James Lomastro PhD, Conway
Former Senate President Pro Tem Richard T. Moore, Uxbridge
Dorothy Weitzman, National Association of Social Workers, MA Chapter, Newton
Stop Bullying Coalition, Peabody