Who Pays for Senior Housing?

Perhaps your aging mother can no longer maintain the family home and together you have decided that a new living arrangement is in order. Once you and your mother have assessed her needs, you face the questions, “Who pays for senior housing?” and “Are there subsidized housing programs for elderly people who can still live on their own as well as for those who need help?” This article addresses public subsidies for both independent and assisted care.

Q: Is there any​ government financial assistance for senior independent living?
A: Generally, government assistance for independent living is available only to low-income seniors. Public housing is one option. The income eligibility limits are set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can qualify if you earn no more than 80 percent and no less than 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live. The HUD office serving your community can provide you with the income levels for your area and family size, or you can find the income limits through the Internet (www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/il.html ).

Private housing providers also may offer subsidies. The HUD 202 program provides capital advances to finance the construction, rehabilitation or acquisition of “supportive housing projects” for very low-income elderly persons, including the frail elderly, and provides rent subsidies to help make this housing affordable. These projects have non-profit sponsors such as religious organizations or other charities. Often these projects will include both low- and moderate-income seniors. The Section 231 program insures mortgage loans to facilitate building or rehabilitating multi-family rental housing for elderly persons (62 or older) and/or persons with disabilities. All elderly or persons with disabilities are eligible to live in apartments in a project whose mortgage is insured under the 231 program. Some low-income seniors also may be able to get “Section 8 vouchers” for private housing from qualified Section 8 landlords.

Q:   Are there any subsidized assisted living projects?
A:   Most assisted living is paid for by the residents with their private funds. HUD does not generally provide money for ongoing services. Often, community service providers supply meals, homemakers and other services necessary for the residents of subsidized housing. The residents must be able to live independently, although they may  need help with activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, grooming, dressing and home management.

Ohio now has an Assisted Living Medicaid Waiver Program that provides services in certified residential care facilities. The purpose is to delay or prevent nursing facility placement. To be eligible, a person must: be a current nursing facility resident, resident of a residential care facility certified by the Ohio Department of Aging or existing Medicaid waiver participant (PASSPORT, Ohio Home Care, Choices); be age 21 or older; need hands-on assistance with two or more of the following activities of daily living: dressing, bathing, toileting, grooming, taking medicines, eating or mobility; meet the financial criteria for Medicaid eligibility; and be able to pay room and board. There are limited openings available statewide for this program. For more information, call (866) 243-5678 to contact the Area Agency on Aging for your community or check http://aging.ohio.gov/services/assistedliving/.

Q:   Is there a program that helps with room, board and some personal care?
A:   Yes. Ohio has a Residential Services Supplement (RSS) program. RSS is Ohio's Optional State Supplmentation program, which provides financial assistance to adults who have increased needs due to a disability that is not severe enough to require long-term care in an institutino, such as a nursing home or hospital. Individuals use RSS, which supplements their income, to pay the monthly allowable fee (or "rent"0 for accommodations, supervision and personal care services at eligible living arrangements in the community. Most eligible consumers may have a monthly income of up to $900, depending on the residential setting. Unfortunately, this is not enough to pay for most assisted living on the private market. It does, however, help some seniors who can thrive in family care homes or group homes serving from three to 16 residents. Seniors can apply for the RSS program through the Ohio Department of Mental Health. Most areas have waiting lists. See http://mha.ohio.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=201​ for further information.
Q:   How do I find subsidized housing?
A:   HUD has a network of housing counseling agencies around the country to provide help in finding housing. Local agencies on aging also can assist in the hunt for affordable housing. Through HUD’s website at www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/mfh/hto/inventorysurvey.cfm , you can search for and locate HUD-subsidized housing projects.

There is no “right” to affordable housing under Ohio law. Attractive subsidized housing projects often have long waiting lists. Once the applicant becomes a resident, he or she may have certain legal protections that make it difficult for the landlord to evict him or her. The hard part is getting in.


This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Martha Sweterlitsch, an attorney with the Columbus firm of  Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff. 

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.



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