Brace for a catastrophic seniors housing shortage, group warns

Unless major infrastructure and policy changes are made, the nation’s supply of affordable housing for seniors will become woefully inadequate in the decades to come. The Bipartisan Policy Center made that prediction Monday while unveiling a report intended to stem such a crisis.

The report calls for four specific improvements:

  • Increasing the supply of affordable seniors housing
  • Making homes and communities age-friendly
  • Integrating healthcare and supportive services with housing
  • Promoting widespread adoption of health technologies that complement successful aging.

The authors did not score the costs that might accompany these adjustments.

“Public policy has failed to keep pace with America’s changing demographics,” said co-chair Henry Cisneros, who formerly served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Cisneros added that many seniors currently face a future full of housing, health and financial challenges.

The center also proposed a new federal program for senior supportive housing that uses “project-based” rental assistance and low-income housing tax credits to finance new construction and attract funding from healthcare programs.

Since its inception three decades ago, the tax-credit program has encouraged $100 billion in private investment in affordable rental housing, the report asserts.

The report claims that less than 4% of the nation’s housing units are suitable for individuals with moderate mobility difficulties. Household finances comprise yet another hurdle. Over the next 20 years, nearly 40% of those aged more than 62 years will have financial assets of $25,000 or less; 20% of those aged 62 or more years will have $5,000 or less.

“These statistics present a stark reality of what the future holds for millions of seniors,” said former Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN) and task force co-chairman. “Seniors’ inadequate savings, their long-term care needs, and the costs of home modifications, call for new strategies to address the home and health needs of individuals as they age,” Weber said.

The nation’s aging population is set to expand dramatically over the next 15 years. By 2030, people 65 and older will comprise more than 20% of the overall population, up from 14% today.

The full report is available here.