Housing problems facing older adults mirror the exact same housing problems the public at large faces:

  • Rising inequality
  • Shortage of affordable options
  • Racial wealth gap

“The time for more comprehensive, innovative policies in design, financing, construction and regulation of housing and urban planning…is now. The quality of life and well-being for a third of US households depends on it,” read Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies report entitled “Housing America’s Older Adults 2019.”

And, people soon-to-be-retired face even more difficult challenges regarding income disparities than the already 65+ demographic. Households aged 50-64 years with incomes in the top 10% increased 2X faster from 20212-2017 by a total of 15% than the bottom 10% who saw increases of only 8%. Think how an average median income of $204,000 compares to an average median income of $14,400 and you’ll understand the concerns of Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies. Also note that an income of $14,400 in 2019 is even loss than in the bottom 10% in 2000.

Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies recent report indicates that income disparity translates into different futures for older Americans at different income levels. And those income disparities at older ages are merely continuations of earlier life disparities. People 65 years and up who have paid off their mortgages had “…monthly housing costs of $458 in 2017, renters paid $830/month in housing costs and those (continuing to pay mortgages) paid $1,310/month in housing costs.”

In 2016, homeowners 65 years+ had an average net worth of $319,200 while renters 65 years+ had an average net worth of $6,700. Homeowners 50-64 years had an average net worth of $292,000 and renters 50-64 years had an average net worth of $5,000. And startlingly, according to the latest Genworth Cost of Care Study in 2018, the national median cost of 14 hours/week for home health care totaled $16,000/year.

Looking ahead to future demographics in 2038, Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing anticipates:

  • Number of households of 70-79 years to hit 10.7M.
  • Number of households of 80+ years to hit 17.5M, or 12% of totals US households.
  • Hispanics 65 years+ to equal 12% of the total population by 2028 while being just 7% of the total population in 2018.
  • 57% of households of 80 years+ are expected to live alone…the realities of living alone have multiple complexities such as health care, social services, and social interactions/isolation.

Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies recommends that urbanism for older Americans be addressed now. Things such as walkability, density, multi-generational living options, supportive aging-in-place design and materials such as wide hallways to accommodate wheelchairs and shower bars (currently just 3.5% homes feature such design factors), Medicare Home and Community-Based Services, grants and tax credits be considered and enacted immediately.

Thanks to Curbed’s Patrick Sisson for source data.

Also read: 5 Disruptive Forces in 2019’s Housing Market and Beyond, Cities Where It’s Getting More & Less Expensive to Live on Daily Basis, Cities Where Renters Can Actually Save To Buy


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