Nov 16, 2019

For seniors, an intractable housing crisis

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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Youth stagnation drives lowest rate of U.S. movers in history

Seagulls fly past the skyline of midtown Manhattan as the sun rises behind Hudson Yards and the Empire State Building. Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Just 9.8% of Americans moved between 2018 and 2019, per housing data out Wednesday — the lowest percentage since the Census Bureau started keeping track of statistics in 1948, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: The data indicates the United States population is "aging, and older people are much less likely to move than younger people. But even younger people are moving less than before," the Times notes.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

Deep Dive: Retirement becomes more myth than reality

Data: U.S. Census Bureau and PNAS; Chart: Naema Ahmed

The number of Americans in the workforce who are over 64 years old has tripled over the past 30 years.

Why it matters: Delayed retirement is a sign of health and affluence for some and a continued life of hardship for others. As society ages and people live longer, a 21st century idea of retirement is needed, Steve Vernon of the Stanford Center on Longevity tells Axios.

Poll: Retirement hopes — and fears

Data: SurveyMonkey online poll with a margin of error of ±2.5 percentage points; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Americans' sentiments about retirement illustrate the impact of growing socio-economic inequality in the country.

The bottom line: Inequality is cyclical. Poorer, less educated, marginalized Americans face more hurdles to reaching a comfortable retirement. Meanwhile, wealthier Americans are more likely to have the luxury of retiring or working as long as they want.

Go deeperArrowNov 16, 2019