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New California Bill Would Prevent and Reduce Homelessness Among Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Sacramento—Last month, Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Merced) unveiled SB 37, the Older Adults and Adults with Disabilities Housing Stability Act, which would provide rent subsidies for at-risk older and disabled individuals. The bill offers California the opportunity to address older adult homelessness at a critical time when older adults are disproportionately impacted by the housing crisis.

In introducing the legislation, Caballero pointed to the growing need for assistance for this population. From 2017 to 2021, the number of Californians 55 and older seeking homeless services increased at double the rate of the general population. In a 2021 survey, over 50% of older adults said that an additional $300/month would be enough to make a difference in their ability to stay housed.

Notably, SB 37 advances the Master Plan for Aging’s goal of preventing and ending homelessness among older adults by enabling thousands of extremely low-income older adults and people with disabilities who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness to afford rental housing.

What the Older Adults and Adults with Disabilities Housing Stability Act would do:

  • Establish a multi-year Rent Stabilization Fund to provide a mix of shallow and deep subsidies to help older adults and people with disabilities afford fair market rate rent and transition to permanent housing assistance programs including the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
  • Encourage the Department of Housing and Community Development to fund and work with a variety of community-based organizations who provide housing and services to older adults and people with disabilities.

Who Would be Eligible for Assistance:

People 50 and older and adults with disabilities who are:

  • Experiencing homelessness; or
  • At risk of homelessness because they have extremely low incomes (20% or below of Area Median Income), are paying more than 50% of their income for rent and are facing identified conditions that make them more vulnerable to homelessness.

The bill is cosponsored by a coalition including Justice in Aging, LeadingAge California, Corporation for Supportive Housing, the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and United Way of Greater LA. The cosponsors had this to say about the bill:

Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director, Justice in Aging: “Homelessness among older Californians is increasing dramatically right now, and for many people over the age of 55, they are experiencing homelessness for the first time. Decades of unfair housing policies and discrimination put Black older adults at much greater risk of becoming homeless than white older adults. We should not wait for older adults to become homeless to help them. Providing rental assistance has proven to be cost-effective and more humane in preventing homelessness.”

Sharon Rapport, Director of California Policy, Corporation for Supportive Housing: “CSH is thrilled to be working alongside Senator Caballero and the other co-sponsors to pursue this important bill to connect thousands of older adults and people with disabilities to safe, stable homes. Data show rental subsidies are one of the most effective interventions for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, but the state has yet to fund subsidies. Given that homelessness among older adults has increased by 73% since 2017, this bill offers a critical and cost-effective model to move the needle on homelessness in California.”

Jeannee Parker Martin, President and CEO, LeadingAge California: “Our lowest income older adults, many of whom live on fixed incomes severely outpaced by rent inflation and unable to return to the workforce, are especially vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. SB 37 would provide a necessary lifeline for many to stay housed while they wait to be enrolled in a permanent subsidized housing program.”

Wesley Witherspoon, Chair, California State Council on Developmental Disabilities: “People with disabilities are far more likely to live in poverty. Because many have low-fixed incomes and increasingly high costs of rent, people with disabilities make up 43% of Californians falling into homelessness. SB 37 provides long-term housing subsidies to people like me—to avoid homelessness.”

Carter Hewgley, Director of Homeless Initiatives, United Way of Greater L.A.: “Older adults and people with disabilities across California are losing their stable housing at alarming rates. SB 37 offers a dignified, proven, and cost-effective solution to helping many of them maintain stability—we should move faster to stop this issue from growing by supporting effective legislation.”

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