Older Adults Are Facing Troubles With Housing

December 14, 2016

The nation's housing inventory is unprepared to meet the needs of an increasingly older population through the next two decades, according to a new report released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

With more than one in five people in the U.S. expected to be 65 or older and one in three households headed by someone in that age group by 2035, according to the report, the population growth of older adults is raising the need for greater inventory of affordable and accessible housing, stresses the report, "Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Adults 2015-2035."

“The housing implications of this surge in the older adult population are many and call for innovative approaches to respond to the growing need for housing that is affordable, accessible, and linked to supportive services that will grow exponentially over the next two decades,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

As the baby boomer generation ages, the U.S. population aged 65 and over is forecasted to increase from 48 million to 79 million. The number of households headed by someone over the age of 65 is expected to rise by 66 percent to nearly 50 million, according to the report. That growth is expected to increase demand for housing that boasts universal design features, like zero-step entrances, single-floor living, and wide halls and doorways. Yet, only 3.5 percent of homes currently offer those three features, the report shows.

Further, low-income renters may be particularly vulnerable as they age to find adequate housing, according to the report. By 2035, about 8.6 million renters will be paying more than half their income for housing. By that time, an estimated 7.6 million older adults will have incomes that likely will qualify them for federal rent subsidies – a 90 percent increase from 2013, according to the report.

“Right now, more than 19 million older adults live in unaffordable or inadequate housing, and that problem will only grow worse in the next two decades as our population ages,” says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, which provided funding for the report. The report “not only calls attention to important trends but also helps point to the kind of solutions — requiring cross-sector collaboration between the housing industry, policymakers, and public, private and philanthropic organizations — that will fulfill older adults’ ardent desire to continue living independently at home with security and dignity.”

Source: Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies