Authors: Phoebe S. Liebig
Fannie Mae Foundation
The frail elderly have special multidimensional housing needs beyond affordability, including shelter that is more adaptive to reduced function and offers supportive services. Suitable housing for this population comprises three policy areas—housing, health care, and social services. In a federal system, development and implementation of policies in these areas involves participation of several levels of government and the nongovernmental sector. This paper uses federalism as a conceptual framework to examine and compare these policy areas in Canada and the United States. In both countries, general national housing policies—relying heavily on the nongovernmental sector and characterized by joint federal-provincial programs in Canada and by important local government roles and age-specific programs in the United States—have benefited the elderly. The effects of such policies on the frail elderly, however, have been less positive because of the general lack of essential human services and, to a lesser degree, health care that enables them to live outside institutions. This is especially true in the United States, where health care policy is fragmented and is dominated by a private insurance system, partial federal financing of health insurance for the elderly, and tense federal-state relations in financing health care for the poor. Although Canadian policies and programs operate autonomously and more uniformly within a national health plan, neither country has a universal, comprehensive long-term care system.
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