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Senior Population Left Behind With Skyrocketing Rent Rates

Updated: Thursday, August 14 2014, 09:59 PM CDT
As housing becomes more valuable in Austin and rent rates continue to climb, senior citizens on fixed incomes are being left behind when it comes to options for affordable housing. 

76-year-old Joel Moscowitz recently found himself in this very situation when his rent at an Austin apartment continued to rise, but his monthly income stayed the same. 

"It started out where I was able to afford it but then they kept raising the rent on me so that it got to the point that I was going into my food money in order to balance my budget," Moscowitz said. 

The Brooklyn native said it got so bad he even went days at at time without eating. 

But food wasn't the only necessity he had to cut back on to cover the bills. 

His case worker with Adult Protective Services, Melissa Zaeder, said he resorted to not turning on his heat or air conditioning because he feared the bill would be too high.

"I'd be over there and it'd be 100 degrees and he didn't have his AC on because he was afraid he wouldn't be able to afford his electric bill," Zaeder said. 

"He lived upstairs and he had major wounds that he was receiving wound care for and it was hard for him to just make it up the stairs," she said.

Zaeder says Moscowitz isn't the only senior citizen in Austin that's recently fallen into the abusive category of self-neglect. 

Right now she has over 50 cases in Austin and generally averages about 30.  She says about 70% of her cases are self-neglect cases with elderly individuals.

She says a lack of affordable housing is making the situation worse.  

"Austin continues to grow and the housing supply just hasn't kept up and as more and more people move here the available housing gets taken up and rents and housing prices continue to rise so people who are on lower incomes don't have as much room in their budgets and really struggle to have an affordable place," she said. 

The nonprofit Foundation Communities says they're seeing the same issue when trying to find affordable housing units for people that sometimes end up on a wait-list anywhere from six months to a year. 

"Austin needs about 30,000 more affordable units to really meet the need," Foundation Communities Executive Director Julian Huerta said. 

The Austin Housing Authority also helps senior citizens find affordable places to live and has run into wait-list problems for years. 

According to their records the wait-list to get a one-bedroom is closed because there are currently 4,000 people on it.

The senior citizen at the top of the list set to get an apartment soon has been waiting since 2011. 

Moscowitz recently got lucky after waiting more than six months to find a place. 

He moved into the RBJ Residential Tower near downtown earlier this month and says had he not found the new place with lower rent he could have ended up homeless. 

"Oh my goodness, I'd be out in the streets for sure.  I mean my entire house would have been taken away from me." Senior Population Left Behind With Skyrocketing Rent Rates

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