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The shallow rental subsidy program is designed to prevent low-income seniors from losing their homes

East County News Service

Photo: Supervisor Anderson greets Cunya Wu, a 102-year-old San Diego resident who joins Serving Seniors for breakfast and lunch daily.

September 28, 2022 (San Diego) – San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to establish a rental subsidy pilot program for seniors who are at risk of becoming homeless. This motion came at the recommendation of Supervisors Joel Anderson (District 2) and Terra Lawson-Remer (District 3) earlier this year at the February 8th, 2022 board meeting to address the crisis of rising senior homelessness.

How it works and who qualifies

The Pilot Shallow Rental Subsidy Program will provide a monthly rental subsidy of $500, paid directly to the landlord of a low-income senior San Diegan. Each subsidy will be paid for up to 18 months.

To qualify for the new rental subsidy program for seniors, an applicant must be at least 55 years old and the head of household. The applicant’s household income may not exceed 50% of the area median income, and the household must be severely rent-burdened, which is defined as paying more than 50% of household income towards housing.

Of those deemed eligible, heads of households aged 60 or older, considered extremely low-income at or below 30% Area Median Income (AMI), and located within one of the 39 Health Equity Zip Codes as defined by the Healthy Places Index will be prioritized for the pilot.

During the pilot program, preference will be given to applicants 60 years or older whose income is at or below 30% of the area median income and to seniors who live in a Health Equity area of the county.

The application window will open by the beginning of next year and rental subsidies will be paid starting in March of 2023. If the pilot program is successful, the County will pursue additional funding opportunities to support the sustainability and expansion of the program.

Why it’s needed

The latest Point-in-Time Count showed that 25% of San Diego County’s unsheltered population were 55 years of age or older. In a heartbreaking discovery, the oldest person surveyed living on the street in San Diego County was 87 years old.

“Older adults on fixed, limited incomes are struggling with rising housing costs and have also become the fastest growing part of our homeless program,” said Barbara Jiménez, the County Community Operations Officer who oversees the Department of Homeless Solutions & Equitable Communities. “This pilot program will help seniors make ends meet and remain in their homes.”

Supervisors and senior advocates applaud passage

“Almost half of seniors living on the streets in San Diego County are experiencing homelessness for the very first time in their lives,” shared Supervisor Joel Anderson. “The program we passed today will keep older adults in their homes and off the streets – which is the right thing to do for these folks who are our parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends.”

"The best time to stop homelessness is before it starts," said Supervisor Lawson-Remer. "Rising costs for gas and housing are impacting all of us - but for seniors on a fixed income, increased rents can trigger a crisis of homelessness. We are excited to launch this innovation pilot program to help keep seniors off our streets, and look forward to the results so we can expand the County’s tools to reduce homelessness in our community.”

“On behalf of Serving Seniors, thank you to Supervisor Joel Anderson and Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer for your leadership. We can make recommendations, but change requires leaders to take action,” said Paul Downey, President and CEO of Serving Seniors. “This is a unique, one-of-a-kind initiative we believe will make a profound impact on older adults on the cusp of homelessness or already experiencing homelessness – just one year from the release of our initial findings.”

Participants will receive light case management and information on other benefits and resources to aid the long-term success of the program. Additionally, based on the program evaluation outcomes, the County will be pursuing funding opportunities to help with sustainability, if deemed appropriate.

Supervisors Anderson and Lawson-Remer held a press conference in anticipation of the pilot program’s vote at Serving Seniors and stayed for lunch service to serve meals and talk with some of San Diego’s seniors.

The County will use existing communications networks, social media, community partners and promotoras to ensure all eligible households are aware of this pilot program.

The Board action supports the Framework for Our Future and Framework for Ending Homelessness. Approximately 220 households could be assisted through the pilot program.

More action to address shifting demographics

The pilot program was approved on the same day the Board of Supervisors accepted an update on the Aging Roadmap, a comprehensive blueprint for older adult services in the region.

More than 700,000 people over the age of 60 call San Diego home and the senior population is increasing exponentially. Residents over 60 are the fastest growing population in the region and by 2030, more than 900,000 San Diegans will be 60 or older.

The Aging Roadmap ensures that the region has programs and communities that support the needs of older adults and celebrates their contributions to society. It also addresses the challenges and opportunities that accompany this demographic shift.

“It is important we continue to focus on ensuring seniors are able to thrive and maintain a good standard of living, said Kimberly Gallo, Aging & Independence Services director. “The Aging Roadmap provides a blueprint to help our growing population of older adults navigate the challenges and opportunities that are accompanying this shift in demographics."


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