In Council News, Kendra Brooks, News by PHL Council

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A resolution introduced by Councilmember Kendra Brooks authorizes Council to hold hearings on the challenges facing aging Philadelphians in securing affordable, stable housing

Philadelphia—Today, City Council unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large), that authorizes the Committee on Intergenerational Affairs and Aging to hold public hearings examining how the ongoing housing crisis is impacting senior Philadelphians and evaluate solutions that would increase access to safe, affordable housing. The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Derek Green (At-Large), Helen Gym (At-Large), Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), Bobby Henon (6th District), Mark Squilla (1st District), Allan Domb (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Isaiah Thomas (At-Large), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), Cherelle Parker (9th District), Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Cindy Bass (8th District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), and Council President Darrell Clarke (5th District).

The Council hearings will focus on the disproportionate impact of the affordable housing and homelessness crisis on seniors and will be ordered by housing type, beginning with senior homeowners. A majority of senior citizens in the city, nearly 206,000 Philadelphians, own their homes. The first hearing will examine the challenges that these homeowners face, from the growing threat of foreclosure to the difficulties that senior Philadelphians face in affording home repairs. The hearing will also highlight the barriers that exist for aging adults in accessing affordable estate planning resources, resulting in chronic clouded title issues. Tangled title issues are a particular concern for many seniors who have worked for decades to pass along generational wealth to their heirs.

Subsequent hearings will focus on seniors who rent their homes, who, according to the Mayor’s Commission on Aging, make up approximately 86,000 of households in Philadelphia. While rental rates in Philadelphia have increased 21% between 2000 and 2018, many of the City’s seniors rely on a fixed income that cannot keep pace with market prices. Additionally, many of the socialized benefits that seniors rely on to survive impose a cap on what a recipient can spend on rental housing, limiting their options as rental unit prices rise. Despite this, no protections exist against unfair rent increases, leaving seniors with the choice to either leave the City or become homeless.

The hearings will also examine the growing number of seniors who are experiencing homelessness or who live in shelter care, a trend that is growing nationwide as the number of homeless seniors is projected to triple over the next decade. Other focus areas include seniors who are currently incarcerated and seniors who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, populations whose housing conditions have put them at extreme risk throughout the course of the pandemic.

“Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted our senior neighbors, so has the housing crisis,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks, Chair of the Committee on Intergenerational Affairs and Aging. “Not only is housing critical for the health and wellbeing of Philadelphia’s seniors, it is the primary way intergenerational wealth is transferred– and too often, lost. Older adults in Philadelphia are among our most vulnerable community members. As housing costs continue to rise and a larger percentage of our population ages, we need to ensure that we are prioritizing these community members and pursuing policy solutions specific to their needs.”

The hearings will center the voices and lived experiences of older adults and are widely supported by Philadelphia’s leading senior-serving agencies and organizations.

“We hear from older people about the challenges of living in poor housing stock, the difficulties in finding accessible, affordable housing along with their fears of eviction and impact of homelessness,” said Diane Menio, Executive Director of The Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE). “Older adults in nursing homes and personal care homes have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic and their voices should be heard.”

“Housing is one of the most urgent issues facing older people in Philadelphia and across the nation, especially during a pandemic, but always, said Karen C. Buck, Executive Director of SeniorLAW Center. “We serve thousands of older people each year who face homelessness and hopelessness when they should have security and safety after a lifetime of contributing to their families, country and communities. The ability to age in place with dignity in a beloved community, to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible, and to avoid institutionalization, is something most of us want for our loved ones and ourselves.”

“The City of Philadelphia currently has the highest proportion of older adults experiencing poverty of the ten largest cities in the nation,” said Najja R. Orr, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. “Not only do older Philadelphians have a lack of affordable housing options, but older or subpar housing structures create barriers to accessibility as individuals age. More than ever, accessible, and affordable housing should remain an important part of a larger, and ongoing, dialogue focused on making the City of Philadelphia a more inclusive city for all.”

“The vast majority of older adults want to age in place to continue to live in their own homes or communities,” said Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP Pennsylvania, State Director. “Still, unsupportive community design, unaffordable housing, and the lack of access to the needed services can prevent them from aging in place with dignity.”

“Philadelphia’s older adults face long-standing housing challenges which have become even more dire during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Deborah Freedman, Executive Director of Community Legal Services. “Seniors frequently seek help from Community Legal Services because they are struggling to pay their rent, cannot afford essential home repairs, or are facing eviction, mortgage or property tax foreclosure.  We also receive many requests for assistance from those living in nursing homes and personal care homes who are experiencing quality of care problems or violations of their rights.  We thank Councilmember Brooks for her concern and leadership in scheduling this series of hearings to examine the issues faced by older Philadelphians.”

Read the resolution: CM Brooks Senior Housing Hearings Resolution – 2.4.21



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