Imagine 3,500 people in a line that snakes around an affordable housing apartment building in downtown Manhattan having heard the announcement that the building is opening up its waiting list. Of the 3,500 individuals desperate for an affordable place to live, 200 will be placed on the waiting list and only 50 will ultimately move into an apartment when a vacancy occurs over the course of the next six years.

This leaves 3,450 people still seeking a clean, suitable and affordable place to live. And, that's just 1 day and 1 building in 1 city in America.

It is crystal clear that we are facing a severe shortage of affordable housing for older adults. Congress has not funded new housing through the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program for the last 5 years, creating a devastating lag in new construction.

The President's recently released "skinny budget" request does nothing to remedy this situation. In fact, it reverses it, taking more than $6 billion away from HUD.

Leaked documents from what will become the President’s program-by-program level request for funds paint a dire picture. These documents show the White House is contemplating underfunding Section 202 rental assistance by $105 million and service coordinators by $18 million. The impact: thousands of older adults would no longer have the benefit of a critical link to needed services and supports by virtue of remaining in their affordable apartments safely.

If such dramatic cuts were ever enacted, existing Section 202 programs may need to close their doors and their nonprofit sponsors may be asked to accept significantly less for rental costs. The future stability of 202 programs would surely be at stake.

To make matters worse, it appears that the Section 202 program is one of many targets for cuts. Public housing, vouchers, and the HOME program are all understood to be on the chopping block.

The "skinny budget" is not yet law so cuts of this magnitude are, at this stage, a signal not a decision. But even a portion of those cuts would exacerbate the crisis we are already facing. We MUST reverse this damaging direction.

The right to adequate housing is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adequate housing is a prerequisite for security, safety, and quality of life. It is an integral part of a community's infrastructure. It is a platform for health care. But to be all these things, it needs to start with a place to live.

We need to ACT NOW to get the attention of lawmakers. They need to understand that, without adequate and expanded resources, this already dire crisis will get worse. For many, this will mean homelessness.

We need to talk about the people on waiting lists, lists whose waits are more often than not, endless.

We need voices from all states and communities.

We need to be relentless in our pursuit of public policies that recognize that adequate housing is a moral imperative and a human right.

Join us in this fight for affordable housing for older adults.