Senior households have been rising slowly over the decades, but this is about to change in the coming years. Urban Institute’s recent analysis of housing trends determined that senior households are expected to grow dramatically by 2030.
Authors, Laurie Goodman, Housing Finance Policy Center director at the Urban Institute, Rolf Pendall, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center director at the institute, and Jun Zhu senior financial methodologist at the institute found that in 1990, there were 20 million households for seniors ages 65 and up. In 2010, this number had reached 25.8 million, and by 2030, the institute projects that aging baby boomer households will reach 46 million.
“This dramatic growth will occur among both senior homeowners and renters, the authors said. “Our research suggests that from 2010 to 2030, senior homeowners will increase from 20 million to almost 34 million, and senior renters—who include both homeowners who will shift to renting and baby boomers who already rent—will increase from 5.8 million to 12.2 million.”
The dramatic rise in senior citizens calls attention to needed policies that will allow them to stay in their homes as they age, the authors wrote.
Urban Institute called for three measures of innovation and action to address this issue:
- We must prepare to address a large increase in cost-burdened households. Seniors’ incomes drop after they retire, but their housing costs often don’t go down by much. This increased cost burden forces seniors to draw down on savings and forego other expenditures. Already in 2011, 2.6 million senior homeowners (13 percent) and 1.7 million senior renters (30 percent) paid more than half of their income for rent. If a proportionate number of senior households pay half their income on housing in 2030, these numbers will rise to 4.4 and 3.7 million.
- We need to encourage and support home modifications that make homes safer, healthier, and more efficient for seniors.Adaptations to reduce the numbers of debilitating trip-and-fall injuries, increase indoor air quality, and make homes more comfortable and energy efficient promise to improve seniors’ quality of life, maintain the value of their homes, and potentially save taxpayers’ contribution to Medicare and Medicaid. The investment in older homes also will increase their resale value in a rapidly aging society.
- We need to encourage and support changes in the community. Community support is necessary for seniors to have a high quality of life. In many communities, zoning laws should be changed to allow for house sharing and construction of accessory apartments. The drop in the proportion of senior homeowners will intensify the challenges of providing a safety net for an increasing share of the population. And senior homeowners need community supports to live a fulfilled life in their own homes without feeling lonely or trapped when family and friends are far way. Elderly adults that own their own home are much less likely to be cost burdened than those that don’t.
“In sum, the aging of the baby boomers means that senior housing issues are becoming much more pressing,” the authors said. “The sheer number of baby boomers will force policymakers and communities to confront these challenges. With the right incentives and models, this challenge may emerge as a transformative opportunity for cities and suburbs across the U.S. to reinvigorate both the bricks and mortar and the community ties in our neighborhoods.”
Click here to view Urban Institute's complete analysis.