Report: Affordable Senior Housing a “Serious Problem,” Will Boomers Wreck Housing Market?

The growth in the nation’s 65+ population will pump up demand for affordable, accessible seniors housing, says a Bipartisan Policy Center report, but the housing market might plunge all over again as the older population begins to release much more housing than it absorbs.

Affordable Housing Shortage a “Serious Problem”

Both senior homeowners and renters are facing a serious shortage of affordable housing, with many paying a significant amount of their income for housing.

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Roughly 30% of senior homeowners spend at least 30% of their income on housing, says  and 17% pay at least half their income. “Even seniors who own their houses free and clear face rising energy costs and, in some locations, rising property taxes,” the report says.

Demand exceeds available supply of federally subsidized housing for low-income seniors.

“Considering that so many seniors already have problems affording their homes or finding an appropriate subsidized dwelling, the growth in the senior population over the next 20 to 30 years will further strain the nation’s assisted housing stock unless new resources for housing assistance become available.”

Americans Want to Age in Place, but Must Make Adaptations First

Besides affordability, the ability to age in place will also be a challenge.

“Many dwellings that seniors occupy are inconvenient or expensive to adapt for mobility impairments and have features that increase the probability of falls, a leading cause of disability. Some home adaptations would pay for themselves many times over, but few mechanisms currently exist to shift expenditures from treatment to prevention.”

A “large majority” of older Americans want to remain in their current home or community as they age, says the report, with recent studies indicating between 85 and 88% of seniors living in traditional private residences. Less than 5% of seniors live in “group quarters,” while about seven to 10% live in senior housing communities, including assisted, independent, and congregate living.

Will Boomers Wreck the Housing Market Down the Road?

Boomer housing trends will have an impact on the entire nation, says the report.

Although the growing senior population means they’ll be occupying an increasing number of housing units, people aged 65 and older actually release much more housing than they absorb.

This happens when households dissolve or combine—think seniors moving in with their adult children, entering senior living communities, or passing away.

Looking at assumptions about the economic recovery, seniors are expected to release a net of 10.6–11.3 million housing units between 2010 and 2020, and 14.4–15.0 million housing units between 2020 and 2030, says the report.

“Total demand for new housing in the coming years is difficult to judge, but it is certain that the release of senior-occupied units will account for a growing share of the total inventory of housing stock while new construction will constitute a declining share,” it says. “The likely consequence is that growing numbers of states and metropolitan areas will experience softening market conditions and weak demand for new construction.”

View the full report here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace