The Housing Crunch for Older Adults Nears
Richard Eisenberg | January 31, 2017
The 65-plus population is expected to surge from 48 million to 79 million in the next 20 years. Yet, the availability and affordability of housing to meet this blooming population is inadequate, according to a recent Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report. The report shows that only 3.5 percent of today’s housing contains the following three key elements of “universal design”: zero-step entrances, single-floor living, and wide halls and doorways. Further, nearly 6.4 million low-income renters will likely need to devote more than 30 percent of their income to housing by 2035, the report notes. Housing experts say builders are not growing the supply enough to meet future demands from older adults and instead are continuing to put most of their focus on higher-end construction. “The Harvard study was a scary forecast,” says Lukas Krause, CEO of Real Property Management, the largest property management franchise in the nation. “The senior sector will be one of the hardest hit for affordability. The most important thing we can do is find affordable housing for older Americans and contemplate layout and design to accommodate the older population.” More homes will need to be tailored to older adults. For example, homes likely will need to be retrofitted as single-floor living with a master suite, wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, and walk-in showers with grab bars. Retrofitting needs to extend to the multifamily sector too. Landlord and property owners have not yet largely embraced retrofitting apartments to accommodate older Americans, Krause says. “As the older population grows, economic factors will change and it will be more attractive to build more versatile homes,” he says. Also, expect some changes in the way people live as the older population grows. For example, cohabitation and shared housing may grow in popularity as affordability concerns brew. And, expect a growth in mother-in-law suites in single-family residences as well as grandparents living with their families like previous generations once did, Krause says. Furthermore, programs like the Johns Hopkins project, CAPABLE, may expand. The Johns Hopkins program seeks to help people age in place by assigning them a nurse, an occupational therapist, and a handyman.