In a Housing Perspectives blog post by Jennifer Molinsky for the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University discusses the state of senior homeownership and major problems that she feels need to be addressed soon as more and more boomers hit retirement.
Molinsky, the Project Director of the Housing an Aging Society at JCHS, said that in just three years, the leading edge of the boomer generation will turn 80—by 2035, the Census Bureau projects that the population 80 and over will grow to nearly 24 million people, doubling what it was in 2016. And the fact that most of these older adults will live alone and on limited incomes, and many will have other factors such as health affecting their situation.
The demand for affordable, accessible housing, with access to in-home services and neighborhood support systems is set to soar in the coming years, but Molinsky says as of right now, the country is falling well short and is failing to meet even todays’ demands. “First, there is enormous unmet need for affordable rental housing for older adults. Over 10 million households headed by someone 65 and over are cost burdened (paying more than a third of their income on housing); half of these pay more than 50%,” Molinsky said. “Nearly three-quarters of renters earning under $15,000 per year are cost burdened. “To compensate, households often cut back on food and medical care, which can be detrimental for those with chronic health conditions,” Molinsky continued. “Renters, often on fixed incomes, are particularly at risk of rising housing costs, and have a much smaller personal safety net: in 2019, the median older renter had a net wealth under $6,000.” She went on to say that the latest available data revealed that there were 2.2 million older “very low-income" residents were living in “worst case housing” defined as having severe cost burdens, inadequate housing, or both. In addition, very little of the nation’s housing stock offers even the most basic of accessibility features. Our analysis shows that less than 4 percent of homes offer a no-step entry, single-floor living, and wide enough doors and hallways to accommodate a wheelchair.