Housing Landscape Bleak For America’s Seniors

The existing housing stock is unprepared to meet the needs of America’s large and growing senior population, and new research points to a need for alternate housing accommodations. 

Aging baby boomers will lift the number of older households aged 65 and over 42% by 2025, and double the number aged 80 and over by 2035, notes a new report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS). “The State of the Nation’s Housing” provides an annual assessment of the housing outlook, and summarizes trends in economics and demographics. 

The aging boomer population has been front-and-center in these annual JCHS reports in the past, and this year’s edition continued to drive at the still-unaddressed housing needs for this cohort.

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“In another decade, the oldest members of this generation will be in their late 70s, a time of life when living independently often becomes difficult,” JCHS said in the report. “By 2025, the large and growing population of seniors is likely to drive up demand for alternative housing arrangements that offer a combination of affordability, accessibility, and supportive services.”

Many older adults live alone, have at least one type of disability, and have limited resources to pay for suitable housing, data show.

“As a result, the demand for units that are affordable, accessible, and provide social connection as well as supportive services will grow increasingly acute over the next two decades,” JCHS said.

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For those seniors who choose to age in place, rising debt and wealth constraints may leave many retired homeowners struggling to meet their mortgage payments.

More than a third (38%) of owners aged 65 and over had mortgages in 2013, up from a little over a quarter in 2001, data show.

“Moreover, the median amount of debt they carried doubled over this period in real terms,” JCHS said. At the same time, the real median equity of older owners in 2013 was down to $125,000—lower than in any year since 1998.

“Having less equity and large mortgage payments late in life is a troubling prospect for households on fixed incomes,” JCHS said.

Access the report here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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