assisted living operators are increasing their charges / rents

Urban Institute researchers suggest the need for an expansion of the federal Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program in a new blog post, which points to projections that the number of senior renter households will increase by 5.5 million in the next 20 years.

In a blog on the “forthcoming senior rental crisis,” Urban Institute researchers called the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 202 program one of the most effective federal programs to address affordable housing supply, as well as supportive services, for older, low-income adults. 

But the number of new Section 202 units has declined “dramatically” over the past decade, they said. As the number of older adult households expands, home ownership among this population will decrease, leading to a large increase in older adult renter households, according to the researchers. 

State-level projections from the institute show that needs differ by state. California, Florida, Texas, New York and North Carolina will account for 2 million of the new older adult renter households, researchers said. Those states — together with Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio Tennessee, Virginia and Washington state — will account for almost 70% of the growing number of older renter households, according to the Urban Institute.

Although the growth of the older adult renter population will be “robust” nationwide, the researchers noted, some states will face more significant challenges with affordability and accessibility. Senior renters, they said, are more likely to be burdened by costs than are their homeowner counterparts.

The Section 202 program, the researchers said, provides interest-free capital advances to nonprofit sponsors to finance housing that offers rental assistance and supportive housing for seniors with low incomes. 

“Our projections strongly suggest the need to expand the program, targeting those areas with the greatest need for this type of housing,” the researchers wrote. Expanding tax credits and grants could help fund new construction and modification of existing housing units to meet the exploding need, they said. 

Expanding the supply of affordable senior housing is a top LeadingAge housing policy goal. The association supports investing in housing infrastructure to increase older adult senior housing units, fund service coordinators, provide internet access and retrofit buildings to make them age-friendly.

“Federal, state and local policymakers all have a role to play in accommodating the coming surge of senior renters, who will need more affordable, senior-friendly housing in the next two decades,” the Urban Institute researchers stated. “Failure to do so will not only fail one of our most vulnerable populations, but will have a profound impact on their children and their communities.”