Demand for Housing Affordability for Older Adults

Published In Alternative Senior Housing

Developers and housing authorities are investing in senior housing projects. Investments are essential as members of the baby boomer generation grow older. Affordable housing is an increasing concern for seniors who are entering their retirement years.

Older homeowners may have mortgages that they will continue to pay with Social Security and other post-retirement income. In 2019, 37% of homeowners over the age of 65 were still paying a mortgage. That percentage increased from 25% in the last twenty years, in part because homeowners took advantage of favorable interest rates to meet ongoing expenses by refinancing their homes.

Some homeowners — particularly those who were burdened by adjustable-rate mortgages as inflation drove up their mortgage payments — may have insufficient income to make their house payments after retirement. Even when the mortgage is paid, many retired homeowners worry about rising property taxes and the expense of home maintenance. Some homeowners will therefore be looking for more affordable housing options when they are no longer working.

Seniors who worked in low-earning occupations may never have purchased a home. About 21.5% of adults aged 65 and over rent their primary residence. Increases in rent have been higher than increases in income for decades, putting pressure on retired renters to look for less expensive housing.

Nonprofits Are Making a Difference

As rents rise, nonprofit organizations are attempting to create safe and affordable housing for low-income seniors. HumanGood was created when three nonprofit groups merged their experience and expertise in providing housing to older adults and their families. HumanGood is California’s largest nonprofit provider of senior housing. It also serves communities in seven other states.

Volunteers of America has developed low-income housing in 42 states, including senior housing and assisted-living facilities. Mercy Housing develops and manages affordable housing for low-income families, seniors and people with special needs across the nation. Affordable housing options offered by Good Samaritan Society are available to low-income older adults in 19 states, primarily in the Midwest.

Many other local nonprofits operate low-income housing for seniors. The Department of Housing and Urban Development allows seniors to search for affordable housing options in their area.

New Affordable Housing Projects

Though affordable senior housing is becoming a reality in an increasing number of communities, in others, progress on proposed housing projects has been slow.

Financing has been approved for an affordable senior housing project in Morrisville, New York. Developed by a nonprofit, the project will create 61 units for seniors who earn significantly less than the median area income. Twenty units will target individuals who are at risk of homelessness or have serious health conditions or disabilities. A similar project will develop 200 affordable units for older adults in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Older adults in Portland, Maine will benefit from 52 affordable housing units in a building that was once a hospital. Fifteen units will be set aside for homeless residents of Portland. The subsidized apartments are part of a larger campus that will combine more than 250 mixed-rate apartments with retail space.

Construction has commenced on the Opus Newtown senior living project in the Boston area. Developed by a housing nonprofit, Opus Newtown targets middle class seniors who do not qualify for low-income housing but cannot afford rents for comfortable apartments. In exchange for their subsidized housing, residents must volunteer ten hours of their time each month to serve community needs.

Some communities have enacted ordinances that require new housing developments to include affordable housing for seniors. The Bretton Woods Affordable Senior Apartment Project in West Davis, California will offer 150 affordable housing units for seniors in a master-planned community development project. The project as a whole has met with opposition because it requires agricultural land to be rezoned for residential development. The project has been in its planning stages for years but is awaiting final design approval so that construction can begin.

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