That Baby Boomers are swelling the ranks of older Americans is well-documented, but do we really understand the consequences of this important shift for the housing needs of older adults?
A new report from the Center for Housing Policy, Housing an Aging Population – Are We Prepared? (link to full report), explores the effects of this coming demographic change on the demand for housing, the challenge of providing meaningful housing choices for older adults of all incomes, and the policies that could help communities across the country respond to the dual challenges of providing older adults with affordable housing and adequate services.
The U.S. 65-and-older population will more than double by 2050 to nearly 90 million, growing at a rate far faster than any other age group. According to Census data, by 2050, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. Some estimates put the figure even higher.
Housing an Aging Population – Are We Prepared? finds that older adults are more likely than younger adults to have housing affordability challenges. As a result, the aging of the population is likely to increase the overall proportion of the country with severe housing cost burdens. The report also finds that many older adults lack access to affordable services that could help them age in place. Similarly, older adults with low- and moderate incomes often lack access to meaningful housing choices – for example, to move into a multifamily development that would provide services an 85-year-old might need to continue living independently and avoid costly nursing care. The report further covers trends affecting older adults in terms of demand, housing costs, finances, location and housing type, offering recommendations on existing policies that may help to address the coming crisis.
Sydelle M. Knepper, founder and CEO of the New York-based development firm SKA Marin, says it’s not just government and nonprofits that are working to meet the housing needs of older adults. In more than 30 years working in housing policy at the federal, state and local levels and now in the private sector, Knepper says that she’s never seen a greater challenge, or such a great opportunity.
“Given the sharp increase in the population of older adults cited in the report, it's essential that we focus now on strengthening the nation's policy response. HUD’s Section 202 supportive housing for the elderly program has done a lot to fund housing for older adults and people with a disability, providing more than 400,000 homes over the last 50 years, but we need to act at a much larger scale to have a hope of meeting future need.”
Advocacy groups for older adults have also begun tackling this looming issue, in large part working to spread awareness and to offer solutions that build on the existing policy framework. Rodney Harrell, a policy advisor at AARP’s Public Policy Institute, says that communities and states must understand the challenges before they can address them.
“As the older population grows, meeting the housing needs of older adults is certain to become a significant challenge across the nation. States and communities need to effectively respond by adopting policies that ensure adequate, affordable housing for people of all ages.”
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