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We often take our homes for granted, but they provide far more than just shelter. They influence our emotional, social, and psychological well-being. However, many seniors are at risk of losing their homes.
What Do Experts Predict?
Currently, we’re headed toward a national shortage of affordable senior housing. The crisis is projected to worsen as the senior population passes 72 million by 2030 and 83 million by 2050. Most seniors who continue to live independently are expected to be renters instead of homeowners. The majority of this group will be living on a fixed income. Both of these factors leave seniors vulnerable to increasing rent and fewer rental property options.
While this shortage affects a large portion of the senior population, it’s especially detrimental to those with low income. The number of senior renters with an income of 50% or less than their area’s median is projected to be more than 7.5 million by 2035. With the senior population increasing every year and economic inflation, those who would meet today’s qualifications for subsidies and assistance may not meet the qualifications in the future due to the adapting thresholds and lack of resources.
What Factors are Contributing to the Shortage?
Many factors contribute to the affordable housing shortage. However, some influence the senior housing market more than others.
- Cost: Renters with low income that don’t meet the qualifications to receive government housing assistance and spend more than 50% of their income on rent and/or live in subpar conditions are considered “worst case.” The number of seniors with worst-case housing needs is rising at an alarming rate. Approximately 5 million households with a resident over the age of 65 are spending more than half of their income on rent.
The cost of living in America continues to rise while the fixed income of a retiree stays relatively the same. The skyrocketing cost does not just apply to independent living. The price of assisted living is also on the rise. It’s projected that the average cost of an assisted living facility will double by 2047. When we consider the additional expenses that come with assisted living or in-home care, we face even more of an affordability challenge.
- Safety: In a post-pandemic world, the consumer market lost the trust of several industries—one of those being the senior housing industry. During the pandemic, news stations covered the impact of COVID-19 in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The statistics were frightening. We learned that nursing homes make up less than 1% of the US population, but they accounted for more than ¼ of US deaths during the peak of our pandemic. Consumer perception changed. The country no longer believes that senior living facilities/communities can keep their residents healthy and safe. Because of this, the occupancy of senior living facilities hit an all-time low in 2020. People are still seeking in-home care alternatives.
- Staffing: In addition to facing a housing shortage, America is facing a workforce shortage. Fatigue, illness, burnout, and simply new perspectives on life have all contributed to this shortage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The workforce shortage extends into the production of new housing, sourcing of raw materials, staffing of apartment complexes and senior living facilities, availability of senior supportive living services, and more. This shortage occurred when the senior housing market was navigating new and unprecedented policies and procedures to mitigate COVID-19 which ultimately led to fewer staffing resources.
What Can Be Done?
Addressing the affordable housing crisis is complex and long-term. Yet, as a country, we can begin to adopt changes to affect senior housing in the decades to come.
- Advocacy: There is a vital need for advocacy on this issue. Attention should be brought to the increasing need for housing subsidies and supportive senior services.
- Technology: We live in an era where technology is ever evolving, and advanced technology can offer creative solutions to the senior housing crisis. Housing providers can start using more advanced technology to reduce costs, decrease labor, and maximize resources. Technology can also improve the accessibility and effectiveness of supportive senior services by utilizing remote monitoring, telehealth, smart home devices, and other available resources.
- Geographical accessibility: Meeting seniors in their current geographical communities with resources such as in-home care and better access to assisted living facilities will keep them more closely connected with their friends, family, and community—an important part of their well-being. Additionally, establishing senior living facilities in more rural areas may help reduce the cost for developers, which can then be passed down to consumers.
- Staffing solutions: The housing market and the senior living industry need creative ways to encourage employee retention. Building attractive brands with incentives for retention and then developing onboarding programs that focus on proficiency, resiliency, community, and adaptability can significantly affect the workforce shortage we face today.
Our country is currently facing a long-term housing crisis. However, this crisis brings about the potential to reshape the inner workings of how our society and economy operate in the decades to come. As this issue will take time to address, being proactive is the best way we can prepare and set ourselves up for the future. Our elder law attorneys offer guidance and creative solutions to the current crisis. If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please contact our Albany office today at (518) 452-6979 and schedule a consultation.