More aging in place support may help with major senior housing hurdles: NPR

Baby boomers face notable and unique housing challenges as affordability challenges drag on, but aging in place is a possible solution according to one expert

Housing headlines seem defined by historically high interest rates and affordability challenges, which present challenges for baby boomers at or near retirement seeking financial stability in a new stage of their lives. Expanded support for aging in place programs may help, according to a story published by NPR.

“[T]he baby boomer generation [is] entering older age amid a historic affordable housing shortage and rising wealth inequality in the U.S.,” the story explained.

A report published recently by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) helps communicate some of the more severe challenges facing older Americans, as nearly a third of the cohort are considered “cost-burdened.” This means they pay as much as 30% of their income on housing costs.

“Half of that group pays more than 50%,” the story reads. “And as the boomers have aged, households in this group reached an all-time high of 11.2 million in 2021. That’s likely to grow further as the number of households headed by someone aged 80 and over doubles by 2040.”

Jennifer Molinsky, project director of Harvard’s Housing and Aging Society program, told NPR that seniors are seeing a sharp drop in their purchasing power as other essential living costs — like food and healthcare — continue to rise alongside housing.

These challenges do not only afflict low-income seniors. The “dual burden” of high housing and caregiving costs will also challenge moderate-income seniors, Molinsky said.

Seniors qualify for federal housing subsidies in greater numbers, but that is also stifled by a lack of supply. Unlike food assistance programs and Medicaid, public housing and/or rental vouchers are not entitlement programs.

“We’re barely keeping up with serving a third [of seniors who qualify],” she says. “[T]hat other unserved number is just expanding all the time.”

More people at or over the age of 50 are also losing their homes for the first time in their lives alongside these higher and expanding costs. Lack of housing also impacts the stability of peoples’ lives in other areas, including medical issues and work availability.

One potential solution, Molinsky says, is facilitating more federal assistance for aging in place programs.

“Among other things, the report suggests government programs to finance safety upgrades like ramps for those who can’t afford them,” the story said. “Molinsky says there should also be more options for seniors who want to move, and — like other affordable housing advocates — calls for zoning reforms to allow more apartment buildings in places long dominated by single-family homes.”

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