June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NYC Affordable Housing Assisted by Selfhelp Community Services

Over the next 20 years, New York City’s demographic landscape is expected to experience a major shift. The AARP Foundation predicts that by 2030, one in every five Americans will be over age 65. Furthermore, statistics show that by 2040, the population of individuals aged 65 and over is expected to increase to more than 1.86 million individuals. The number of individuals over the age of 85 is expected to increase by more than 70%.

With this demographic shift, affordable housing and services for older adults in New York City and across the country is increasingly becoming a major crisis. Approximately 2 million older adults lack a safe, affordable place to live. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2021, about half of Americans (49%) say that the availability of affordable housing in their local community is a major problem. This is up 10 percentage points from early 2018. As the NYC population ages, the income level for seniors is dropping. On average 16% of seniors live below the poverty line. In the Bronx, 22% of seniors live below the poverty line. New York City currently has over 10,000 homeless seniors living in shelters. Yet, affordable housing is incredibly complex to design, finance and build. The number of units being built is desperately small compared to the need.

As people age, and with many seniors preferring to live on their own and age in place, older adults need housing that is structurally and mechanically safe and that can accommodate people with decreased mobility, cognitive impairments and hearing or vision impairments. Safe communities, adequate transportation options and access to grocery stores, doctors and community activities will also be needed.

Selfhelp Realty Group (SRG)/Melamid Institute for Affordable Housing offers a solution: affordable senior housing with services. SRG, an affiliated corporation of Selfhelp Community Services, owns and operates 14 affordable housing residences, home to nearly 1,500 older adults, while providing on-site social services to support the health and wellness of residents aging in their own homes. The onsite social service model is called Selfhelp Active Services for Aging Model (SHASAM).

SHASAM’s goal is to provide the appropriate level of assistance to allow older adults to remain in their apartments without needing to transition to more costly settings such as assisted living or nursing homes.

SHASAM provides a complete package of services to support aging in place, if and when needed. These include health and wellness programs, opportunities for socialization and referrals for home care and other community based resources. Selfhelp’s buildings have computer rooms, community rooms, libraries, exercise equipment and private outdoor space for residents to relax. The buildings are located near public transportation and all but two are in close proximity to one of Selfhelp’s senior centers.

Selfhelp’s buildings offer residents the opportunity to lead independent lives by ensuring that older New Yorkers have access to safe, clean and affordable housing with access to services that promote healthy living. “Selfhelp apartments are truly affordable for low income seniors and fill the desperate need for housing,” noted Susan Wright, VP for design and construction, SRG/Melamid Institute for Affordable Housing. In this way, Selfhelp is robustly responding to the affordable housing crisis facing older adults.

“Selfhelp is proud to be on the forefront of developing affordable housing and providing evidence-based social services that benefit the health and quality of life of residents. It’s important for all affordable housing developers in New York to understand how to partner with social service providers for the lifelong well-being of their residents,” said Brian Steinwurtzel, Co-CEO and principal, GFP, and chair, Selfhelp Realty Group.

Selfhelp Community Services is a nonprofit serving 25,000 older and vulnerable adults each year through affordable housing, home health care and skilled social services while remaining the largest provider of services to Holocaust survivors in North America. Guided by the principle that housing is a human right, SRG/Melamid Institute for Affordable Housing is committed to building and preserving affordable and safe housing for older adults, with access to services that enrich their lives and inspire their futures. Currently, SRG has five new projects in construction and development.

Selfhelp’s first building in the Bronx is located in northwest Riverdale and is home to 85 low-income older adults. It was Selfhelp’s first building to house a portion of residents who were formerly homeless and integrate them with the wider building community. Each apartment and common space has a view of Van Cortlandt Park. The building features include a rooftop terrace, a large community space, a computer lab and room for virtual communication with friends and family. A physical therapy company occupies space on the first and second floors and a small deli is currently under construction.

Selfhelp is also committed to building and operating energy-efficient and sustainable residences throughout New York. Selfhelp has partnered with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability on the NYC Carbon Challenge program, which is a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in 10 years to ensure a healthy and safe environment for SRG homes and communities. Current construction projects are being built to Passive House standards, a building design requiring highly efficient building envelopes, proven to improve resident comfort and reduce energy costs.

SRG/Melamid Institute for Affordable Housing also serves as a valuable resource to other organizations throughout the country by sharing the knowledge and expertise they have gained over the past eight decades. The Institute also advocates for increased local, state and federal investment in housing with services for older adults.

Selfhelp’s recently published White Paper, “Affordable Housing for Older Adults, Developer-Provider Partnerships” offers developers a roadmap for building housing that keeps older New Yorkers safe and healthy while aging in their own homes. As an established nonprofit developer and social service provider, Selfhelp Community Services addresses New York’s housing crisis by providing the essentials both nonprofit and for-profit developers need to create effective partnerships to build new senior affordable housing.

“For decades, Selfhelp has been building affordable housing and offering services through its recognized service model, SHASAM (Selfhelp Active Services for Aging Model). Community is at the heart of all housing, and our new paper shares our experience creating partnerships that build vibrant and healthy communities for older adults,” said Stuart Kaplan, CEO, Selfhelp Community Services. Affordable housing developers are welcome to contact Selfhelp’s team to learn how to bring this evidenced-based program to their residents.

For more information, contact Genevieve Mahoney, senior communications associate, [email protected], 212-971-7696, www.selfhelp.net.

Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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