Although Londonderry’s population has remained fairly stagnant over the past five years, the elderly population is rapidly growing. Despite this increase, the town has a lack of affordable housing for low-income seniors.
The Elder Affairs Committee discussed this issue at its meeting Tuesday, May 19.
Chairman Bonnie Roberts explained that government-subsidized senior housing is necessary because many cannot afford to pay for expenses such as housing, food and medicine solely from their monthly Social Security checks.
“We would like a realistic, affordable number,” Catherine Blash, the senior center director, said. The average rent for current, unsubsidized senior housing in Londonderry is $900 to $1,000 per month, she said.
In 2011, the Affordable Senior Housing Committee applied for a grant from the Housing and Urban Development’s section 202 program (HUD 202) but was not funded.
HUD 202, also known as the Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program, aims to financially support the construction and preservation of housing for the very low-income elderly. The program allows participants to live independently, but it provides rent subsidies and support activities, such as transportation and cleaning, according to its website.
“(The committee) had a piece of land and a proposal, but unfortunately, there was not enough HUD money,” Susan Haussler, vice chair of the committee, said.
Since then, there has been no HUD money appropriated for new buildings or new projects.
The closest subsidized senior housing is in Derry, but it has an extensive waiting list. Hudson, Nashua, Manchester, Pelham and Salem also offer similar facilities.
Haussler said many of her colleagues have moved due to the lack of senior housing.
Committee member Bonnie Ritvo said she also knows many people who were forced to move and are unhappy because they wanted to live in Londonderry.
“Londonderry needs affordable housing with access to supportive services to allow our very low-income seniors to age in place,” Haussler said. “We’ve been waiting for the HUD money, and it just isn’t there.”
Pam Patenaude, who has experience working with HUD 202 and is currently making a documentary on senior housing issues, was present at the meeting. She said she was unaware that the program was only allocating funds for preservation and rental subsidies.
“I need to do a lot more research on Londonderry, but I think (coming to the meeting) was a good start,” Patenaude said.
She said she will keep the committee posted on her findings concerning affordable senior housing.
In other business at last week’s meeting:
• The Londonderry Police and Fire Departments are working to create an active liaison to meet the needs of seniors in town.
Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said there will be opportunities for seniors to take CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) classes, and the department will distribute a list of emergency contacts to elderly residents in town.
“Anything that we can do to help on (the seniors’) behalf we would be more than willing to do,” O’Brien said.
The police department is taking similar steps, though there are no designated services in place.
Detective Chris Olson explained the risk of scams targeted at seniors and urged residents to educate themselves to avoid such a danger.
The scams include faulty Facebook “friend” requests from scammers claiming to be long lost relatives in need of money, as well as strangers posing as the Internal Revenue Service or Comcast Cable demanding money for a bill.
The Londonderry Police Department will be releasing more information and updates about these scams on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.
• The Elder Affairs Committee is planning on holding an Elder Abuse Education and a Summer Safety Education seminar later in the summer.
The Elder Abuse Education seminar will focus on the physical, mental and financial mistreatment of senior citizens. The Summer Safety Education workshop will inform elderly residents about summer dangers, including dehydration and potential break-ins.