Older San Antonians face affordable housing challenges

SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 30, 2019) – Gloria was 18 years old when she and Reynaldo bought a new 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom property on the South Side of San Antonio. Over the decades, the couple and house aged together.

Through the years, Gloria and her husband did a good job maintaining their home, with one exception: the bathroom, which became more dangerous for the couple as age and ailments crept into their bodies. Gloria struggled getting in and out of her bathtub, afraid she would slip and fall. Because of their fixed incomes, Gloria and her husband could not afford to remodel the bathroom to make it safer.

The story of Gloria and Reynaldo’s housing situation is a rapidly growing issue, as Bexar County is expected to experience a near-doubling in size of its older adult population over the next 20 years, with similar growth rates expected through the year 2050. The housing inventory is aging alongside their occupants. That means older adults face special challenges in living independently in our community.

Older adults’ living conditions are the focus of a new white paper produced by the San Antonio Area Foundation’s SALSA initiative (Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio) in collaboration with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) San Antonio, Wells Fargo and Merced Housing Texas. SALSA is comprised of nearly 40 organizations that seek to create a community where older adults are respected, thrive, and live connected lives.

The data in the white paper is derived from multiple published studies, ranging from sources such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), City of San Antonio, Harvard University, Housing and Urban Development, National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders, and SALSA.

The first set of recommendations calls for helping homeowners to age in place by making needed modifications to their homes. Another recommendation is creating wrap-around social and supportive services to address the unmet needs of aging adults.

Currently, older adults often lack resources to stay in their homes safely. The white paper outlines possible solutions, starting with an “age-in-place” strategy. Complementary approaches, such as an initiative to organize and coordinate housing, social services, and medical care sectors are also noted, along with convening nonprofits that offer these services to a collective model. A dedicated fund and general obligation bonds from the City of San Antonio to retrofit homes is another potential solution.  

Gloria researched options for assistance in improving the safety of her home. Merced’s Owner-Occupied Repair Program (OORP) was able to help.

Through OORP, Merced rehabilitated the bathroom with new flooring, lighting and a mirror much larger than the old one. Most importantly, for Gloria and her husband’s safety and security, Merced installed a walk-in shower with handrails.

“They really went the extra mile for me,” says Gloria. “I’m no longer afraid of falling and have a presentable bathroom. It’s like having a new house. It’s wonderful. I’m very pleased with the work and thank God every day.”

Merced is one of multiple organizations serving older adults that are now evaluating the white paper’s findings to engage in the solutions presented.

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