Senior citizens are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, and as their numbers increase the problem of finding adequate housing grows more acute, especially for the low-and moderate-income elderly.
With the help of a federal loan announced last month, efforts are under way to increase the number of housing options available to older people in the Baltimore area.
$5,860,000 loan approved last month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used by Associated Catholic Charities to build a 94-unit apartment building in Edgemere near Back River. The site was selected for its easy access to Baltimore and other amenities. Construction is expected to begin in 1992 and be completed by spring 1993.
There already are 723 applicants for the 94 units.
"It is really hard to answer these calls," said Pamela J. Gavin, housing manager of Belvedere Green, a home for the elderly in Northeast Baltimore.
"They've asked me for a vacant unit, but I can just put them on the waiting list and warn them that it could last 10 years to get an apartment. And they gloomily reply: 'In 10 years I will be dead.' "
Associated Catholic Charities originally wanted to borrow $6.6 million from HUD, which would have allowed the group to build 125 apartments.
Dale R. McArdle, director of housing services for Catholic Charities,said the Edgemere building will be similar to other ACC senior care facilities, such as Baltimore's DePaul House and Belvedere Green. Catholic Charities is scheduled to begin construction in Lansdowne on another senior-care facility in the spring.
People who want to live in the apartments must be older than 6and have an income of less then 50 percent of the local average per capita income. In the Baltimore area, that means the tenants can make no more than $14,175 annually. Tenants will pay 30 percent of their monthly income as rent.
The loan that is aiding construction was funded through HUD's Section 202 program. Created in 1959, the program has provided about 226,000 housing units for the low-and moderate-income elderly. But the commitment of federal dollars for such housing assistance has dropped sharply in recent years.
In 1988, for example, $560 million was earmarked for Section 202; it was given $480 million in 1989. This year, the allocation was trimmed to $283 million. Funding is expected to continue to fall as Congress wrangles with the 1991 budget. In fact, Edgemere is expected to be one of the last projects funded under the program. HUD intends to phase out Section 202 and replace it with a credit voucher program. Instead of funding new construction, vouchers would focus on helping the elderly poor pay the rent on existing privately owned apartments.
Vladimir Matejovsky is a Czech journalist who is visiting The Su on a fellowship.