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Article updated: 1/1/2011 2:08 PM

Low-income seniors to get housing help under Biggert's bill

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert

 
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Legislation that will provide more suburban low-income seniors with affordable housing options has passed both houses of Congress.

Co-sponsored by Hinsdale Rep. Judy Biggert, the Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act allows the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to dole out funds to remodel low-income housing for seniors. The legislation, which is awaiting President Barack Obama's signature, also makes it easier for owners to convert properties into housing for low-income seniors.

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The legislation has been in the works since 2007.

Biggert calls it "the product of nearly four years of bipartisan collaboration and expert professionals," many of them from the suburbs.

Michael Frigo, vice president of Mayslake Village, says the new law will help the Oak Brook campus convert 100 outdated 300-square-foot efficiency apartments into 50 larger, more modern one-bedroom apartments.

The efficiency apartments, smaller than some dorm rooms, were built in the 60s and "in desperate need of remodeling," Frigo said.

Senior residents of the campus, many of whom have limited mobility, find the efficiency units, smaller than some dorm rooms, too cramped to live in, Frigo said.

"We get five to 10 calls about housing a day. But this got to the point, because they were so small people said I can't possibly live in this. Everything else we have on campus is one bedroom."

Frigo said Biggert has "spearheaded the project from day 1," working closely to hear the needs of seniors on campus.

Along with the housing legislation allowing for remodeling funds, Congress also passed the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act. Also co-sponsored by Biggert, it reauthorizes the housing and urban development department's Section 811 program, which provides affordable supportive housing vouchers for people with disabilities. The legislation is expected to provide funding to triple the number of such housing units built with federal dollars; speed up that process, and provide incentives to nonprofit and for-profit agencies to partner on such projects.

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