Nov 16, 2019

For seniors, an intractable housing crisis

Illustration of seated concerned older woman.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Housing affordability is becoming a central obstacle to Americans’ ability to retire, especially for those living on fixed and limited incomes.

The big picture: The high cost of housing is a growing problem for older Americans in supply-constrained and wealth-divided cities, and for developers of senior housing facing a growing preference for “aging in place.”

Driving the news: While developers saw the looming wave of retiring Baby Boomers as a gold mine, many are instead finding the growing trend of seniors remaining in their homes is leaving them with empty buildings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"In a city like San Francisco where you can’t afford to retire, many of our members can’t afford to leave — they're in rent-controlled apartments," says Jacqueline Jones, whose nonprofit, NEXT Village, helps seniors stay in their homes.

  • There’s a shortage of affordable housing for seniors.
  • Deanna, a 65-year-old retired social worker in San Jose, tells Axios she's been on one waitlist for five years and waited a year for her current apartment.

By the numbers: Next year, the average social security monthly payment will be $1,503.

  • The average studio in San Jose was $2,017 in the second quarter of 2019.
  • A studio at Atria Senior Living in Foster City, Calif. costs $5,800 per month, per its website.

What’s next: The number of older renters earning 50% or less of their area’s median income is projected to grow to 7.6 million, according to a 2016 report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

  • Of the total projected 27.2 million low-income older households, 10.6 million (nearly 40%) will be 80 and over.

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