Site rounds up housing info

Frustrated by outdated housing information available to New York's elderly population, the state Office for the Aging has unveiled an online, comprehensive guide of current senior accommodations.

Tom Gallagher, the office's public information director, said the Web site (www.seniorhousing.state.ny.us) provides the most up-to-date information about housing options available across the state. The site contains a listing of nearly 1,100 developments, including assisted living complexes and senior-oriented apartments.

The site was launched June 1 after being in development for the past year and a half.

Individuals or the 59 local agencies that serve older New Yorkers can search the site by county, particular development or a specific type of housing — 14 types in all — Gallagher said. Other search features include types of services and amenities available and number of units in a development.

With 3.2 million New York residents 60 and older, Gallagher said the service is needed.

"It's an issue that has really begun to get a lot of attention over the last couple of years, and it will continue to be an emerging issue as the population continues to age," he said, adding the outdated paper guides caused a lot of confusion among families, housing providers and agencies.

The office, he said, began thinking about a comprehensive list in 1998 and later decided a searchable Web model was the best answer. Using existing paper lists, the office sent out 2,500 questionnaires to housing providers, asking them wide-ranging questions about their developments, including whether they allowed pets. About 1,100 forms were returned, a higher number than expected.

Providers have a user ID and password that enables them to update changes to their developments. Gallagher said he hoped the site would motivate other providers to be listed.

During the site's development, the office also conducted focus groups with senior citizens, asking for additional input. He said that although older people are less inclined than other groups to use the Web, that's slowly changing.

The state will market the site through local newspapers and senior publications as well as through the local county agencies, he said.

The office also would link with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which launched an online, searchable affordable housing directory (www.dhcr.state.ny.us/ahd) several months ago.

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