There’s another potential housing crisis coming and this one won’t be a collapse in home values.
The nation is facing a lack of affordable, physically-accessible and well-located homes for America’s aging population — especially those with low incomes, according to a new, gloomy study released today by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies & AARP Foundation.
“You’ve got a scenario with the largest generation we’ve ever had moving into their senior years combined with the fact that longevity is increasing,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Realtor.com, the site of the National Association of Realtors. “And we’re fairly ill prepared to address the housing needs and challenges of them.”
Fortunately, there’s time to address this crisis — but not much. In 15 years, one in five Americans will be 65 or older. And by 2040, we’ll have 28 million who are 80+.
“If things don’t change, low-income older people will be compromising their well-being in many respects,” says Chris Herbert, acting managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. “It’s an issue that will affect us all.” Housing, says Vivian Vassallo, vice president of Housing for AARP Foundation “is a lynchpin for well-being.”
Many houses and apartments — which are often old themselves — lack basic accessibility features, preventing older adults with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes, according to the report.
Only 1% of U.S. housing units have all five of what are called “universal design” features: no-step entry; single-floor living; extra-wide doorways and halls; accessible electrical controls and switches and lever-style door and faucet handles. Just 57% of homes have more than one of them.
And, the study notes, no-step entryways appear in homes of only 46% of households headed by someone at least 50 and which have a person with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs.