Housing Need Projections Could Help Our Strategic Planning

Justin Reaves, our Chief Financial Officer has found and shared with us this just published fascinating study on the projected housing needs of seniors between now and 2035.  Written by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

I very much doubt that any summary I could write would do the Report full justice, however, I am copying here the very short press release summary (bold added), and then highlighting two of the things that might be most relevant to the very exploratory discussions about the future that we are now having in the community and in our strategic planning process.

The Press Release:

By 2035, more than one in five people in the US will be aged 65 and older and one in three households will be headed by someone in that age group, according to Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Adults 2015-2035, a report released today by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.This growth, the report notes, will increase the demand for affordable, accessible housing that is well connected to services beyond what current supply can meet.

According to the report, as the baby boom generation ages, the US population aged 65 and over is expected to grow from 48 million to 79 million, and the number of households headed by someone over 65 will increase by 66 percent, to nearly 50 million. This growth will increase the demand for housing units with universal design elements such as zero-step entrances, single-floor living, and wide halls and doorways. However, only 3.5 percent of homes offer all three of these features.

“The housing implications of this surge in the older adult population are many,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. “and call for innovative approaches to respond to growing need for housing that is affordable, accessible and linked to supportive services that will grow exponentially over the next two decades.”

In the coming years, many older adults will have the financial means to pay for appropriate housing and supportive services that allow them to live longer in their own homes. However, many others will face financial hardships, particularly because their incomes will decline in retirement. Low-income renters are particularly vulnerable, notes the report, which projects that nearly 6.4 million low-income renters will be paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing by 2035. The report adds that 11 million homeowners will also be in this position by that time. In total, the report estimates, 8.6 million people will be paying more than half their income for housing by 2035. The report also projects that 7.6 million older adults will have incomes that would qualify them for federal rental subsidies by 2035, an increase of 90 percent from 2013. “Today, however, we only serve one-third of those who qualify for assistance,” says Jennifer Molinsky, a senior research associate at the Joint Center and lead author of the report. “Just continuing at this rate—which would be a stretch—would leave 4.9 million people to find affordable housing in the private market.”

The report notes that in many surveys, older adults express a strong desire to live at home for as long as possible. Achieving that goal will require public and private action to support modifications to existing homes, take steps to address the affordability challenges facing both owners and renters, and adapting the health care system to enhance service delivery in the home. There is also a need to expand the range of housing options available to better meet the needs of an aging population and improve options for older adults to remain in their community when their current home is no longer suitable.

“Right now, more than 19 million older adults live in unaffordable or inadequate housing, and that problem will only grow worse in the next two decades as our population ages,” says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, which provided funding for the report. “This important follow-up study to Harvard’s ground- breaking 2014 report on housing America’s older adults not only calls attention to important trends but also helps point to the kind of solutions — requiring cross-sector collaboration between the housing industry, policymakers, and public, private and philanthropic organizations — that will fulfill older adults’ ardent desire to continue living independently at home with security and dignity.

Next, I want to highlight some of the body of the full Report that struck me as having special relevance to our areas of exploration.

Multi-Generational Living

So far, we have tended to think of potential multi-generation aspects of Collington as a matter of expanded activities.  This paragraph suggests the growing national need for multi-generational living environments.

A special case of living with family is the multigenerational household, where three or more generations are present, with the head of the household a member of any generation. Rates of multigenerational living vary greatly by age, race, ethnicity, and nativity. In 2014, one in ve Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic Asian adults aged 65 and over lived in mutigenerational households, compared with one in ten non-Hispanic black adults and one in 25 non- Hispanic whites of the same age (Figure 1.5). In addition, while only 5 percent of all native-born older adults aged 65 or older lived in multigenerational households in 2014, fully 20 percent of foreign-born older adults of the same age lived in a home that included at least two other generations. Differences by nativity hold within races and ethnicities as well, as the foreign-born of all races are more likely to live with their children’s families at older ages than those of the same race/ethnicity who are native born. With the minority and the foreign-born shares of the population expected to expand in coming years, and assuming cultural norms around multigenerational households hold constant, this form of living may become increasingly common.

Indeed, this might suggest that multi-generational issues also relate broadly to diversity issues, to economic diversity, and to our relationship with the broader community.

Flexible Definition of Independent Living

Tracking the discussion in our community of increasing the flexibility of options, this paragraph tends to suggest that we are not alone in thinking about potential expansion of our definitions.

A relatively small but rapidly growing number of the community-dwelling older population live in senior-only apartments or in housing that provides services
and supports, ranging from basic conveniences like transportation, to assistance with household management, to help with personal care. Independent living facilities (sometimes referred to as “housing plus services”) generally offer a few meals a week in a community dining room, daily transportation services, and daily social activities, but do not offer assistance with activities for daily living (though they may assist residents in obtaining that help). In contrast to independent living facilities, assisted living facilities do offer support with activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing, as well as household help (e.g., laundry, housecleaning) and at least two meals daily.6 Both for- and nonprofit entities have developed these options.

Interesting stuff, and particularly appropriate when we are so early in our discussions.  There will b plenty of time for much fuller exploration, and every resident and stakeholder should be assured that any explorations will reflect deep consideration and broad agreement.  I strongly encourage reading the whole Report.

One thought on “Housing Need Projections Could Help Our Strategic Planning

  1. Thank you for this. Have only skimmed it: now I will read it carefully. I am interested in the three ways of defining disability and wonder how we might think of easing those burdens, in those terms, as we think about Independent Living “aging in place.” Laurie Cobb


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