Of the nation’s 33 million older adult households, about 15%, or more than five million, are severely cost burdened, spending more than half of their income for housing. That’s according to data from a new report released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

The agency’s State of the Nation’s Housing 2020 report paints a grim picture of housing affordability in the United States for low-income households. Amid a country that has, for much of the year, been beset by the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest sparked by long-standing racial inequities and a rush of natural disasters, today’s “crisi conditions call for a comprehensive re-envisioning of national housing policy,” the report noted. 

The report shows that for all owner households aged 65 and older, 11% spend more than half of their incomes for housing. For all renter households aged 65 and older, 30% are severely cost burdened. Not surprising, the lower the income of the household, the more likely they are to be housing cost burdened, according to the report. 

The oldest adults appear to be hit the hardest by housing costs, too, according to the report. Across housing tenures, researchers found that shares with burdens decline for each successive age group through ages 45 to 54, but rise thereafter. 

“Cost-burden rates are especially high among those aged 85 and over,” the report noted. “Households in that age group had the second-highest cost-burdened share in 2019, with 1.5 million of the 4.0 million households in this age range (36.8%) paying more than a third of their incomes for housing.”