Planning, Development and Administration of Senior Housing Complex:
August 24, 2004
The National Indo-American Association for Senior Citizens (NIAASC) held a “Brainstorming” Session on Planning, Development and Administration of Senior Housing Complexes, on August 22,2004, at the Kerala center in Elmont, NY This NIAASC initiative was prompted by its mission of serving seniors through information, referral and advocacy services and to address the increasing concerns of seniors regarding adequacy and affordability of decent housing, in their twilight years yearning to lead rich and independent lives.
The session, attended by 26 participants including six speakers/panelist, was punctuated with valuable information and insights by a specially-chosen panel of experts actively involved in the area of Housing in general and in Senior Housing in particular.
The speakers/panelists were:
Ms. Aleyamma Mathew Director of Programs for the National Coalition for Asian-Pacific
American Community Development (National CAPACD).
Ms. Michelle Santantonio Executive Director of the Long Island Housing Services Inc..
Mr. Doug Aloise Housing Administrator for Catholic Charities, Hicksville, NY
Mr. Frank Lang Director of Planning and Development for Asian-Americans for
Mr. Subash Midha Chief Financial Officer, Consumer Information and Dispute
Resolution Inc. (CIDR), formerly Fiscal Director, Senior Housing Portfolio, Catholic Charities.
Mr. Basant Kohli Executive, Metropolitan Life/ Volunteer for Ombudservice (AARP).
In his welcoming remark, Mr. Rajeshwar Prasad, NIAASC President, briefly alluded to NIAASC’s general mission of information dissemination, referral and advocacy services and how in that spirit, this brainstorming session was conceived in response to the Indian Seniors’ community needs for housing articulated by the NIAASC members
in various NIAASC meetings. Mr. Prasad also informed that the media coverage of the proposed brainstorming session generated calls from Indian community leaders in Chicago, Houston, New Jersey expressing that the session would be a good starting point on this important subject.
Mr. E.M. Stephen , president of the Kerala Center, welcomed all participants on behalf of the Center. He emphasized close working relationship between NIAASC and the Center. He also informed that the Center runs two senior programs, along with many other activities.
The panelists were introduced by Messrs. Ashwin Pandya-Vice-President NIAASC, M.K.Ramasubramanian-Board Member and Rajeshwar Prasad-President.
The Panelists structured their discussions into three broad areas—PLANNING, DEVELOPMENT and ADMINISTRATION with each area being covered by a pair of panelists. The format was not only designed to tap into the “expertise” of the panelists in the subject areas assigned to them, but also to facilitate a free exchange of ideas, views recognizing the overlap of the three components and looking at them in a comprehensive manner rather than strict compartmentalization.
The PLANNING session was led by Ms. Aleyamma Mathew and Ms. Michelle Santantonio.
Ms. Aleyamma Mathew who is Director of programs for the National CAPACD, outlined her organization's broad spectrum of planning, implementation and coordination activities with community-based organizations across the US Although not directly involved in Housing activities per se, she reiterated the vast resources available from her organization by virtue of their wide reach across the US and how these could be tapped into by local communities embarking upon community-building activities with Housing as the cornerstone. The queries and discussions that followed her presentation highlighted the opportunities for follow-up.
Ms. Michelle Santantonio then traced the historical development and advancement of civil rights issues as they pertain to immigrant, minority communities with housing discrimination as one of the thorny issues and how her organization namely the Long Island Housing Services successfully, valiantly and effectively fought to advance the cause over the last thirty years, in alliance with Human Rights Commissions. She unequivocally outlined the do’s and don’ts of Senior Citizens Housing development emphasizing the need to eschew any overt/covert “exclusiveness” perceptions, however inadvertent and benign the attempts may be. She also pointed out the rules and regulations have to be observed strictly irrespective of whether the projects are Govt-funded or private funded. Given the vastness and diversity of the communities dispersed in the US the Indo-American Communities involved in Housing development activities must be cautioned to be fully aware and adhere to local laws on fair housing.
The session on Development was led by Mr. Doug Aloise who in his capacity as Housing Administrator for the Catholic Charities manages in excess of 1250 housing units in Nassau/Suffolk Counties. Doug stressed the importance of proper scouting, selection of sites for housing developments, being thoroughly aware of zoning requirements laid out by the local communities and the need to ensure harmonious relations with the Planning Board officials and other lawmakers in the community and be attentive to the sensitivities of the local populace. He referred to the rent “thresholds (namely what % of income should rent account for in these units ) and how units’ rental requirements, exceeding this threshold can be met by subsidies etc. subject to the prevailing laws applicable in the communities concerned.
Mr. Frank Lang , Director of Planning and Development at AAFE, and a licensed architect, then followed on the Development segment and outlined his experiences in this area by virtue of being involved in the Asian-Americans for Equality. Frank stressed the importance of clearly-defined objectives, mission statements in undertaking Housing projects, the need to tend to the administrative burdens of scrutinizing applications (with limited staffing resources) winnowing them down to the available housing units—often a fraction of the applications received given the inherent difficulties of laying down criteria that are deemed fair and equitable in the allocation process. Frank also provided some insights into the Capital Outlays involved which are a function of the community neighborhoods and the sizes of the units proposed. While rental-ceiling formulas (e.g. not exceeding 30% of income) can be used as a norm in assessing the “economics” of the housing projects, these can be suitably modified using historic rents (wherever they exceeded the “thresholds”) paid by the prospective applicants. Needless to say these guidelines have to be tailored to the local community conditions and needs.
This session on Administration was led by Mr. Subash Midha, currently CFO for CIDR (Consumer Information and Dispute Resolution Inc.) emphasized the need to be clear about the path(s) we plan to take—whether we choose the HUD-Subsidized route of Tax shelters or private-initiatives in the setting up of the Senior Housing Projects. The inevitable delays involved in Govt-funded schemes need to be carefully evaluated before embarking upon the projects. Any covenants or restrictions that accompany such funding schemes need to be adhered to in the light of the community’s needs/objectives. Mr. Midha cautioned that the administrative aspects such as -- the budgeting, cost containment, staffing levels etc. are far more demanding than the setting up of the housing units. Mr. Basant Kohli , an Executive with Metropolitan Life and AARP Ombudservice volunteer, the other panelist in the Administrative segment outlined the activities of Ombudservice (an adjunct of AARP)—one of which involves Assisted Living entailing periodic visits and inspections of the facilities.
The after-lunch session was punctuated by lively, interactive discussions on the presentations, moderated by Dr. Ashok Satkalmi. The consensus amongst the panelists was that the whole process of the senior Housing Developments ,from conception to consummation must be thought through with clearly laid out objectives regarding location, size of units, mode of financing, adherence to local laws (zoning, fair housing statutes etc). The panel also stressed that meeting the “ unique needs” of the Indo-American Senior Communities has to conform to the need to be inclusive and this delicate balance has to be carefully preserved in the true spirit of the American Immigration experience and history.
The discussions hovered on the next steps to be taken by NIAASC building on the ideas/concepts discussed at the session. The group also discussed possibilities of developing retirement communities by interested individuals, who will be acting as owners. It was decided that a Working Committee be set up -- to be coordinated by Mr. M.K. Ramasubramanian, with the help of Board members and some of the panelists. This Committee will focus on the salient aspects of the senior Housing Issue, delve deep into the specifics wherever deemed appropriate, meet with some of the panelists and other agencies deemed knowledgeable on the subject and develop a report which NIAASC could peruse and decide on the suitability for dissemination to the Community.
The panelists were equally impressed with the group of this brainstorming session. Many of these participants had professional background in various fields such as medicine, insurance, health and human services, social work, administration and management, coordination of senior programs, accounting. Panelists confided that the work ahead is challenging but not impossible. The success of the project requires collaboration and partnership, and they reiterated that NIAASC in its future deliberations on the issue of senior housing can depend on the agencies represented by the panelists.
In his summary remarks, Rajeshwar Prasad reiterated the role of NIAASC on key issues affecting Seniors like Housing, as a information source for the communities embarking on projects. He emphasized that implementation of housing schemes would be undertaken by the communities involved, with NIAASC acting more as a facilitator. Mr. Prasad stated that NIAASC has played similar role as facilitator in various senior citizen programs, sponsored by different community organizations.
Ms. Tara Kotecha—the Secretary NIAASC proposed a vote of thanks to the panelists and the participants in the sessions. She underlined the cooperation extended by the Kerala Center under Mr. Stephen’s leadership.
The unanimous consensus amongst the participants was that the brain storming session was an unequivocal success and the participants left with a great sense of accomplishment. They recognized the difficult task ahead and encouraged the NIAASC to play a leading role on this important issue.