Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased that the Committee is holding this important and timely hearing today to discuss what is a growing crisis in our country Ė the crisis in long-term care. As we will hear from the Commission co-chairs, our country not only faces a long-term health care crisis, but also a long-term housing crisis. Indeed, as the Commissionís preliminary findings show, housing and health needs for our nationís seniors are inextricably linked. We cannot adequately address the health needs of our nationís growing elderly population without providing them access to affordable housing.
In the next thirty years, the senior population will grow to more than 20 percent of the U.S. population. Currently, 20 percent of seniors have significant long-term care needs, and as our population lives longer this number will only increase. Low-income families nationwide face severe housing problems, particularly in New Jersey where rental costs are among the highest in the nation. But, seniors, particularly elderly women who generally outlive their spouses and are more likely to live alone, face especially complex housing problems. Fifty-seven percent of seniors who rent pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing and are likely to have significant health care needs.
Eighteen percent of seniors need assistance with at least one daily activity, such as bathing or cooking. Too many of these seniors, however, lack access to the support services they need to help them "age in place." As a result of a shortage of supportive housing and limited access to community-based services, too many of our seniors have been institutionalized, a measure that is both costly and sometimes unnecessary.
While most states provide access to certain home-based care services for elderly Medicaid recipients, these services are not guaranteed and are only available to very low-income seniors. Forty percent of our senior population has an income below 50 percent of the Area Median Income. Yet many of these seniors are not Medicaid eligible, and are too poor to pay for home care services or assisted living. And, for those who are eligible for federally subsidized supportive housing, there is too often a long waiting list.
Nationally, for everyone one senior living in subsidized housing, there are an additional six seniors on waiting lists for such housing. In New Jersey, there are nine applicants for every one available Section 202 unit. According to the Commissionís preliminary findings, in order to keep pace with this 6 to 1 ratio, we will need to create an additional 730,000 additional rent-assisted units by 2020. And thatís what we need just to maintain the status quo. The need for affordable housing production cannot be understated. There are currently 1.4 million elderly households that are currently eligible for federally subsidized housing but are not receiving it.
Mr. Chairman, we have a crisis in this country today that will only continue to worsen. As the Commissionís findings demonstrate, the puzzle of meeting seniorsí housing and health care needs requires not only creative solutions, but will also require a significant investment in the production of affordable and supportive housing that will enable our seniors to age with dignity.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing from our panel.