NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Liz Cole has lived and worked in New York City for most of her adult life.
She says the realities of aging in the city, being her own support system, and living on a fixed income is stressful.
“The homelessness issue is very frightening,” the 69-year-old said.
The most recent statistics show the number of homeless seniors in New York City has more than tripled over the last decade.
In 2007, there were 822 people over the age of 65 who were homeless in the city. That number jumped to more than 2,000 in 2017.
That year the vacancy rate for apartments with rents less than $800 was just 1.1 percent.
Liveon, an advocacy group for seniors says for some New Yorkers who’ve aged out of the workforce, live in poverty or on a fixed income face life-or-death choices every day.
“It’s a daily decision between am I going to eat three meals today, am I going to be able to pay my rent, am I going to be able to pay electricity,” Katelyn Andrews of LiveOn NY said.
Web Extra: Katelyn Andrews Discusses Affordable Housing Challenges
“That is daunting to know that I may not have many other options to turn to if my rent increases at the rate it has been for the last 15 to 20 years.”
Cole lived in a single room occupancy unit and put out over 30 applications for senior affordable housing, sitting on a waiting list for seven years before getting a unit on the Upper East Side.
Giselle Routhier, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, says the heart of the issue is the lack of affordable housing.
The organization has been urging the city to build 24,000 new affordable housing units – including units accessible for seniors.
“If it’s not accessible physically to someone who is aging… then it’s not going to work for them,” Routhier explained.
“So that shrinks the universe even more and that’s why we need that new construction.”
The de Blasio administration taken steps to address the needs of our oldest neighbors, building or preserving more than 7,600 affordable housing units for seniors, with plans to build 800 new units every year – 30 perfect of those would be set aside for formerly homeless seniors.
“Some of the buildings we’re building will not only be resources for the residents that live there but also for seniors in the community as they’re building senior centers there,” Jenna Breines from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development said.
Just to give you an idea of the demand. There are about 5,000 people on the waiting list at this senior affordable housing building. Administrators here say that people could wait as long as 10 years to get to the top of that list.