Justice Housing for an Aging Population

United Church Homes’ affordable housing ministry provides more than safe, accessible homes for low-income older adults. Aging in community, these residents experience abundant living with the help of integrated, on-site services and recreational opportunities. Over the past three decades, this ministry has grown with the support of community partners. UCH celebrated one such partnership last fall when South Haven Woods residents joined the South Haven United Church of Christ congregation to rededicate the Bedford, Ohio, community after renovations in its 30th year of service.

South Haven Woods rededication with renovations with neighbors South Haven UCC
From left, Vanessa Norris, Director
of Housing Services, United Church
Homes; Rev. Kenneth Daniel, UCH
President and CEO; and representatives
of CHN Housing Partners

Affordable Housing Partnership

South Haven Woods opened Oct. 1, 1989, across the church’s parking lot. The congregation had discussed opening affordable housing on its property as far back as 1968.

In a special worship service before the rededication, UCH President and CEO Rev. Kenneth Daniel told the congregation:

“What you have done (as a courageous congregation) is provide more than affordable housing or low-income housing. This is justice housing; safe, secure, and now a model for people to live happier and healthier lives. You have contributed to bending the arc of justice toward the vision of a just world, a beloved community in Christ.”

“South Haven Woods is the best model, in my view, of a congregation enacting its call to discipleship and putting its faith into action,” he told the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the UCC.

Expanding Affordable Housing Options

Terry Spitznagel, Chief Growth Officer, United Church Homes
Terry Spitznagel, Chief Growth Officer, United Church Homes

With the retirement of Chief Operating Officer Chuck Mooney, United Church Homes hired its first chief growth officer, Terry Spitznagel, who joined the staff Feb 10. Terry will lead efforts to grow existing and new lines of business for UCH. With over 25 years of experience, she has overseen healthcare operations, including senior living, hospital and post-acute care, hospice, affordable housing and community-based services over her senior living career. The strategic move was just one way United Church Homes is expanding its ministry to older adults who need access to safe, affordable housing.

Countless older people have experienced the UCH difference in 61 affordable housing communities in 13 states and two Native American nations. In 2019, United Church Homes was named the eighth largest provider of managed senior living and affordable housing in the U.S. The ministry continues to expand, as the need for affordable housing for an aging population grows.

By 2050, the population of individuals age 65 and older in the United States is projected to double, growing faster than any other age group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As people age, their risk of having chronic diseases or functional limitations increases. According to LeadingAge, these risks are higher among members of minority groups, who are expected to comprise 42 percent of the senior population in 2050, and those living in poverty.

Supportive, Affordable Housing

Supportive housing is a term for residential settings that are designed to provide a range of onsite services while people maintain their own private living space, according to an AARP Public Policy Institute report titled “Affordable Supportive Housing Fills Gap for Older Adults and People with Disabilities.” A key characteristic is that health and other social services are provided in a residential, rather than an institutional, setting. Meal deliveries, monitoring and emergency response and service coordinators are some of the supportive services provided at UCH housing communities.

Cheryl Wickersham, Vice President, United Church Homes Housing Services
Cheryl Wickersham, vice president, United Church Homes Housing Services, shares information about affordable housing with South Haven UCC congregants.

Late last year, UCH joined other LeadingAge members in praising the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidance for accessing new resources for renovations to PRAC properties, known as Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) for PRAC. The move gave organizations options for new financing for preservation to position themselves for sustainable futures.

Thirteen of UCH’s affordable housing communities are 30 years or older, and 19 are 25-29, with close to half those being PRACs. Sixteen PRAC communities were built 20-24 years ago.

Bolstered by new funding sources, UCH is strategically growing its affordable housing mission to serve more older adults throughout the United States. An example of another funding source is the Low- Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), a competitive bid process administered by state governments. The program provides a tax incentive to acquire, construct or rehabilitate affordable rental housing for low-income households. UCH is exploring ways to obtain more of this crucial funding.

“We’ve taken significant steps to increase our living options through new construction and acquisition and to form strategic partnerships that will help us serve more older adults,” said Rev. Daniel.