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State program funding senior housing to expire

June 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of senior citizens across the state are wondering where they will live when a program that helps them pay rent runs out of money. For more than 25 years, a state program has helped seniors at certain housing complexes pay their rent. But now it's running short of money, and many seniors fear they'll be forced out.

It was about six months ago that many seniors at one housing complex in Lake Elsinore received a letter from management saying that the state-run RHCP rental-assistance program is going to be ending at the end of 2013. Unless many of those seniors can come up with an extra $300 to $500 to pay rent, they're going to have to find a new place to live.

"It's distressing, and I'm not even handicapped, and there's several here that are, so it's a sad thing that the state doesn't seem to care what happens to all of us older citizens," said Lake Elsinore resident Lynn French.

Like many of the other seniors on fixed incomes, 71-year-old French, who lives off Social Security, says if the state rental assistance program known as RHCP comes to an end, she doesn't know what she's going to do.

"My next-door neighbor who's not here right now said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do but I can't move,'" said French. "She's so upset and so concerned, she said, 'I guess I just won't eat,'" said French.

According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, Parkside is one of 39 complexes across the state where funding will soon come to an end.

RHCP started in the mid-1980s as an annuity to help seniors with rental assistance. The funds were going to run out at some point anyway, but because of the economic recession, it's run out of money earlier than was projected.

Unless something is done about it, senior citizens like 90-year-old Lillie Burns will have to pay the price.

"I don't know what to do," said Burns. "I have sleepless nights, I've reached out for everyone that I knew of, and no one seems to help us 20 seniors, 20 of us seniors, and some of them are severely disabled."

"It's very stressful, and we don't know what to do, is the problem," said Rosemary Cowie.

"It hurts," said Judy Hoskinson. "Where is everybody going to go? Nobody out there is going to help us."

"The end of the RHCP subsidy is difficult news for the assisted unit households that have benefited from subsidized rents during the past three decades. ... Neither the California legislature nor the USDA has been able to provide additional state or federal funds, or another solution, to delay the Annuity Fund's exhaustion," said Eric Johnson, a California Housing Finance Agency spokesperson.

The state also says that of the 39 complexes that are affected by this decision, nine of them have applied for federal help. The Lake Elsinore facility tried, but the management said applications are no long being accepted.


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