Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Kerry and Members of the Subcommittee, it is truly a pleasure to be before you today to discuss one of the most crucial issues of the new century-the provision of affordable housing for our aging population.
It is also indeed appropriate to be seated next to my House colleague and fellow New Yorker, Ranking Member LaFalce, whose support helped engineer passage of our bipartisan senior citizen housing legislation last year in the House.
Let me also extend my congratulations to you, Senator Santorum, for your introduction of S. 2733, the "Affordable Housing for Seniors and Families Act," which takes the next step toward enacting into law these critical reforms. As you know, your home state of Pennsylvania has one of the highest median age populations in the country, which makes these issues immensely important. Your constituents should be honored to have you as a champion of affordable housing.
Mr. Chairman, one of the hallmarks of this new century is the growing number of Americans living longer and enjoying more active, healthy lives. Today, more than 35 million Americans are 65 years of age and older. By the year 2020 that number will grow to almost 53 million.
This newfound longevity should be celebrated. But we must not take their future quality of life for granted. Housing leaders must not overlook the fact that millions of seniors will suffer from a crisis-level lack of safe, affordable housing if we fail to prepare for it.
Already today, GAO and HUD estimate that at least 1.4 million seniors are experiencing worst case housing needs. They are more likely to be poor. And nearly 40% of seniors, not in nursing homes, are unable to perform the basic human activities associated with independent living.
These are our grandparents and parents-those who helped make our country great, prosperous, and safe from foreign threats. They deserve to have the peace of mind that comes with living their last years in the comfort of a safe and healthy home.
Last year, the House took the first step to meet these challenges. In September, the House passed H.R. 202, the "Preserving Affordable Housing for Senior Citizens and Families into the 21st Century Act." The vote was overwhelming-405 to five.
Mr. Chairman, your proposal builds upon the House effort. We are grateful for your hard work and for moving the process forward.
Let me close by stating two important perspectives.
First, Americans are living longer. Clearly, the issue of affordable housing will be as important as the future of Social Security and Medicare. Without a roof over your head, little else seems to matter.
Secondly, we can only accomplish what needs to be done with genuine bipartisanship. Legislators acted pragmatically on both sides of the aisle in the House. Otherwise, a bill would not have been brought to the Floor. The result was overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.
It was only a few short weeks ago that I was before this Subcommittee testifying on our proposal to make the dream of homeownership a reality for more Americans. I am hopeful that over the next few months, the House and Senate can agree on provisions from both our homeownership bill and our respective senior housing bills to send a broad-based package to the President before adjournment.
Mr. Chairman, you have triggered the process in the Senate with the work and support of Senator Kerry and Committee Ranking Member Sarbanes. I stand ready to help you in any way I can as you move your legislation forward in this body.
Finally, if I may Mr. Chairman, I understand that today you will hear testimony from the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. AAHSA's New York state affiliate has long been one of my most trusted sources of counsel on affordable housing opportunities for New Yorkers. I am grateful for their help, particularly that of New York Association President Carl Young and Director of Housing Policy Nancy Hooks. I would encourage you to continue to rely on AAHSA's expertise as I know you have.
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