By Annette Pinder
Glenn Thrush, in writing for The New York Times, recently confirmed that the U.S. is in the grips of an escalating housing affordability crisis. “Millions of low-income Americans pay 70 percent or more of their incomes for shelter, while rents continue to rise, and construction of affordable rental apartments lags far behind the need,” said Thrush.
Here in Buffalo, People Inc. currently provides affordable and safe apartments to 875 older adults in our region. During a November celebration commemorating the 25thAnniversary of People Inc.’s commitment to this effort, People Inc.’s President and CEO Rhonda Frederick shared the challenges and frustrations, and the heartwarming stories they encountered along the way. She said, “It wasn’t unusual to hear objections to construction of low-income apartments from townspeople, such as ‘Why would we want those people here? We’ll be scraping them off the middle of the road!’”
The desire to provide affordable housing was met with a completely different response by the town of Hamburg. Instead of objections, townspeople welcomed and valued older adults, supporting the construction of Iris Apartments in Hamburg, which housed People Inc.’s first 49 tenants. Frederick said, “It takes a village to accomplish the construction of affordable housing, and it all started with the Town of Hamburg.”
“Twenty-five years ago, we were thrilled to open the doors at People Inc. Iris Senior Living in Hamburg,” said Frederick. “From there, the need for affordable housing for older adults only continued to grow. In 2014, we opened our twentieth affordable senior living complex, Walnut Senior Living in West Seneca. It’s been an honor to work alongside so many community members over the years to make the apartments a reality. These affordable apartments were made possible due to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202 Program, and we’re so grateful for their funding. Today, we continue to see the benefits of safe, affordable housing for tenants, and we look forward to many more years of support for independent living for older adults.”
Today, there are 20 apartment buildings housing individuals ages 62 and up who are income-eligible. With the exception of a few, nearly all bear the name of a flower. Those present to commemorate and celebrate this uplifting and important milestone that took place at People Inc.’s Iris Apartments in Hamburg were Congressmember Jack Quinn, Lisa Pugliese of HUD and various community leaders. Also, present were tenants who shared what it means to them to live safely and independently. One tenant said, “Like a flower, it’s a place where you can bloom where you’re planted.”
From an individual who receives a small pension and cannot afford an over-priced apartment, to a widow who can no longer afford to manage the upkeep of a house, People Inc. assists hundreds of older adults with managing utilities, downsizing, and removing the burden of home maintenance. To learn more about welcoming, affordable, safe housing options located throughout Western New York, as well as other services for seniors visit www.people-inc.org/senior_services_home, call 716.817.9090, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.