Getting creative to solve New Hampshire's senior housing crisis
By GRETCHEN M. GROSKY New Hampshire Union Leader
About this series
Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday News report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire's aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at email@example.com or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging. This series is funded through a grant from the Endowment for Health.
There’s a well-documented crisis in affordable housing in New Hampshire. State Committee on Aging member Kristi St. Laurent saw the problem first-hand as she tried to help a senior constituent find a place to live after a foreclosure.
St. Laurent said now that the woman has a home, it’s time for action. The time it took for her to help this woman find affordable housing was too much work for a team of people — never mind an elderly person.
“There is no way, any way, for a person to do this on their own,” she said. “There are seniors living paycheck to paycheck, and they don’t have the resources to deal with this or get through it on their own.”
St. Laurent said it’s going to take some creativity, and she’s already come up with one possible idea. She calls it “Silver Corps.” Her idea is to match seniors who have rooms available with students or 20-somethings in need of affordable housing. She said the young renter could help the older person in a variety of ways in exchange for affordable rent.
“This could just be having someone in the home for safety, shoveling, giving a ride to the store once a week,” she said. “Hopefully something like this will come about. I’ve seen a few similar models that we could work off of. It would provide affordable housing for young people and help keep older residents in their home and community.”
There have been several innovations across the country to address the issue of affordable senior housing. Here is a look at a few.
• Tiny homes: In Detroit, Mich., Cass Community Social Services has built nine tiny homes — 200 to 400 square feet — and is in the process of building 25 more to provide affordable housing to low-income seniors, veterans, students and homeless people. The homes are being built with donations and through volunteer work.
• Home sharing: In Vermont, there is HomeShare, which matches roommates in need of affordable housing with seniors who want to stay in their homes. The program was founded in 1982 by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and in 1986 became its own nonprofit.
• Schools become homes: Lutheran Social Service Housing in North Dakota took ownership of an abandoned school there, and through tax credits and government funding, converted it into affordable housing for seniors.
• In-laws: New Hampshire has implemented a new law that allows owners of single-family homes to build accessory dwelling units — such as in-law suites or apartments — on their property with little restriction. The goal of the law that went into effect June 1 is to increase the number of affordable housing units in the state.
• Tax credits: States like Massachusetts and Illinois now offer property owners a state income tax credit to donate houses and property to nonprofits committed to using the donation for long-term affordable housing. The credit is equal to 50 percent of the property’s value.